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Dangerous Space Perfect Paperback – June 1, 2007
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With an introduction by Geoff Ryman, this collection from wonderfully primed-for-action Aqueduct Press shoots onto the must-have list for this year... (Rick Kleffel, The Agony Column) --Rick Kleffel, The Agony Column March 23, 2007
a well written and intriguing collection from a truly fearless author. (bookslut) --Bookslut
...a unique kind of science fiction, wherein the alien land we are enticed to explore is the human soul itself... Eskridge does a wonderful job describing the ache of love (the beautiful desperation of human relationships!), and she tests the limits of our vicarious, readerly hearts... (Seattle Times) --Seattle Times
About the Author
Kelley Eskridge is a novelist, essayist, and screenwriter. Her short stories have been finalists for the Nebula and Tiptree awards, winner of the $11,000 Astraea Writer's Award, collected in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, and adapted for television. Her novel Solitaire was a New York Times Notable Book, a Border Books Original Voices selection, and a finalist for the Nebula, Endeavour, and Spectrum awards. A movie based on Solitaire is currently in development. She lives in Seattle with her partner, novelist Nicola Griffith.
Top customer reviews
Well, scratch all those assumptions when it comes to Kelley Eskridge. As much as I loved "Solitaire," her only novel to date (and let's work on that, can we?), "Dangerous Space" moves Eskridge into another level entirely, as far as I'm concerned. The stories in this collection span the spectrum, from contemporary fiction to classic sword-and-sorcery fantasy to hard sci-fi and speculative fiction. And yet, while in another author you might be frustrated by this flitting from one genre to another, Eskridge is so talented at whatever she sets her hand to that I found myself wondering what else she might be capable of.
Love, and the many maddening, variable, indefinable forms it takes, are major themes of Eskridge's work. That's what makes the character of Mars so wonderful. It might seem a gimmick to have such a gender-neutral recurring character - indeed, from a lesser writer, that's exactly what it would become. But Mars is more than an exercise. S/he challenges our very assumptions about gender, making us first obsess about his/her sex, and then gently showing us, by the end of each story, how silly and unimportant such concerns are. Man, woman - it doesn't matter, Mars is a force of nature, one of the most complex, complete, and fascinating characters I've ever had the pleasure to read. I wish we could get a Mars novel, but I suspect that Eskridge couldn't keep the secret for that long without it becoming awkward. For now, we have "And Salome Danced," "Eye of the Storm," and the title story "Dangerous Space."
Other stories address the irrepressible creativity of the human spirit (the Harrison Bergeron-like "Strings"); the nature of pain and our humanity (the heartbreaking "Alien Jane"); and the rarely-discussed price that must be paid to balance the scales when someone is offered a unique, even magical gift ("City Life"). Few of these stories have typical happy endings, and many of them are downright disturbing, in that delicious, claw-their-way-into-your-subconscious fashion. These are stories that will stick with you long after you put them down.
Ms. Eskridge, please, please don't make us wait another five years for your next offering!
The book is her first short story collection, from Aqueduct Press. Most of the stories included here I'd read before, in various places. The centerpiece, though, is brand new, the title novella.
Kelley is rough, but not in the sense of unpolished. She writes some of the most seductive prose I've ever seen. It's impossible not to think of sexual similes--you read her and you think, "Wow, very sexy, this'll be nice, a very fine one night stand" and you wake up the next morning in love. Or at least unwilling to stay away. I choose the comparison intentionally, because the title story is about sex. About music. About the psyche you find in the mix, where music touches that which is most intimate, and the only other thing that comes even close to such an affect is sex, the best sex, the sex that teaches.
But it is very much about music. I felt occasionally that she was describing me (but only coincidentally) and the way I feel about music, about certain bands, certain songs, certain artists. She knows this stuff, too, from the inside out. She writes like someone who has been backstage, during set-up or break-down; she's seen the aftershocks of a great performance, and she can describe that fulfilled-empty space that is creative aftermath.
And she makes you feel it. That's the rough part. Because anything that good has down sides. It's only ever all good when the experience is superficial. Which is to say that it's not that good, but there's nothing substantive to compare it with except a warm afterglow that's entirely of your own making. Nothing's been shared until you get close to the whole package, which is rough.
Kelley is one of those few writers that intimidates me, that makes me question why I bother. Oh, I get over it, and I count that reaction as a positive thing, because it makes me try a little harder next time.
I'm not going to talk about the rest of the stories--there's a foreword by Geoff Ryman and he clearly observed more about these stories than I did, even while I helped workshop a couple of them, and I can't add anything substantive to his remarks, just keep nodding and going "Yeah, yeah"--except to say that they are wonderful. And that music is the best way to describe the flow of them, the sensuality they evoke.
So, yeah, this is a recommendation, very much so. But a caveat, too--prepared to get personal when you read these stories. They're rough that way--and very beautiful.
The gender ambiguity that threads through the stories, particularly in the character of Mars but also subtly accented in the sexuality and qualities of Eskridge's other characters, was not, for me, the main focus. It evidences the author's skill in her prose, as well as an incredible openness about human potential. To me however, the book is about people, the way they become broken or mended, the way they become open or closed.
But "Dangerous Space" is not just about those places, geographic and symbolic, where we can become vulnerable. It's also about the thresholds that we need to cross, the moments that we need to share with other people to get there. Whether though love, or affection, or friendship, or lust, or just though a single moment of shared understanding, this is a set of stories filled with hope about the human capacity to connect. It is consistently delicately raw, and delightful.