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Dreaming Again: Thirty-five New Stories Celebrating the Wild Side of Australian Fiction Paperback – September 30, 2008
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
About the Author
Jack Dann is a multiple award winning author who has written or edited over 60 books, including the groundbreaking novels Junction, Starhiker, The Man Who Melted, The Memory Cathedral -- which is an international bestseller, the Civil War novel The Silent, and Bad Medicine, which has been compared to the works of Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson and called "the best road novel since the Easy Rider days."
Dann's work has been compared to Jorge Luis Borges, Roald Dahl, Lewis Carroll, Castaneda, J. G. Ballard, Mark Twain, and Philip K. Dick. Philip K. Dick, author of the stories from which the films Blade Runner and Total Recall were made, wrote that "Junction is where Ursula Le Guin's Lathe of Heaven and Tony Boucher's 'The Quest for Saint Aquin' meet...and yet it's an entirely new novel.... I may very well be basing some of my future work on Junction." Best-selling author Marion Zimmer Bradley called Starhiker "a superb book... it will not give up all its delights, all its perfections, on one reading."
Library Journal has called Dann "...a true poet who can create pictures with a few perfect words." Roger Zelazny thought he was a reality magician and Best Sellers has said that "Jack Dann is a mind-warlock whose magicks will confound, disorient, shock, and delight." The Washington Post Book World compared his novel The Man Who Melted with Ingmar Bergman's film The Seventh Seal.
His short stories have appeared in Omni and Playboy and other major magazines and anthologies. He is the editor of the anthology Wandering Stars, one of the most acclaimed American anthologies of the 1970's, and several other well-known anthologies such as More Wandering Stars. Wandering Stars and More Wandering Stars have just been reprinted in the U.S. Dann also edits the multi-volume Magic Tales series with Gardner Dozois and is a consulting editor TOR Books.
He is a recipient of the Nebula Award, the Australian Aurealis Award (twice), the Ditmar Award (three times), the World Fantasy Award, and the Premios Gilgamés de Narrativa Fantastica award. Dann has also been honoured by the Mark Twain Society (Esteemed Knight).
High Steel, a novel co-authored with Jack C. Haldeman II, was published in 1993. Critic John Clute called it "a predator...a cat with blazing eyes gorging on the good meat of genre. It is most highly recommended." A sequel entitled Ghost Dance is in progress.
Dann's major historical novel about Leonardo da Vinci -- entitled The Memory Cathedral -- was first published in December 1995 to rave reviews. It has been published in 10 languages to date. It won the Australian Aurealis Award in 1997, was #1 on The Age bestseller list, and a story based on the novel was awarded the Nebula Award. The Memory Cathedral was also shortlisted for the Audio Book of the Year, which was part of the 1998 Braille & Talking Book Library Awards.
Morgan Llwelyn called The Memory Cathedral "a book to cherish, a validation of the novelist's art and fully worthy of its extraordinary subject." The San Francisco Chronicle called it "a grand accomplishment," Kirkus Reviews thought it was "An impressive accomplishment," and True Review said, "Read this important novel, be challenged by it; you literally haven't seen anything like it."
Dann's next novel The Silent was chosen by Library Journal as one of their 'Hot Picks.' Library Journal wrote: "This is narrative storytelling at its best -- so highly charged emotionally as to constitute a kind of poetry from hell. Most emphatically recommended." Auhor Peter Straub said, "This tale of America's greatest trauma is full of mystery, wonder, and the kind of narrative inventiveness that makes other novelists want to hide under the bed." And The Australian called it "an extraordinary achievement."
His contemporary road novel Bad Medicine (titled Counting Coup in the U.S.) has been called "a vivid and compelling vision-quest through the dark back roads and blue highways of the American soul."
Dann is also the co-editor (with Janeen Webb) of the groundbreaking Australian anthology Dreaming Down-Under, which Peter Goldsworthy has called "the biggest, boldest, most controversial collection of original fiction ever published in Australia." It has won Australia's Ditmar Award and is the first Australian book ever to win the prestigious World Fantasy Award.
Dann is also the author of the retrospective short story collection Jubilee: the Essential Jack Dann. The West Australian said it was "Sometimes frightening, sometimes funny, erudite, inventive, beautifully written and always intriguing. Jubilee is a celebration of the talent of a remarkable storyteller."
As part of its Bibliographies of Modern Authors Series, The Borgo Press has published an annotated bibliography and guide entitled The Work of Jack Dann. An updated second edition is in progress. Dann is also listed in Contemporary Authors and the Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series; The International Authors and Writers Who's Who; Personalities of America; Men of Achievement; Who's Who in Writers, Editors, and Poets, United States and Canada; Dictionary of International Biography; the Directory of Distinguished Americans; Outstanding Writers of the 20th Century; and Who's Who in the World.
Dann commutes between Melbourne and a farm overlooking the sea. He also 'commutes' back and forth to Los Angeles and New York.
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Top customer reviews
Although the stories were written by Australians, very few of them take place in an Australian setting. That really didn't matter to me, but anyone expecting stories set in Australia should be aware that there aren't that many here.
For me, the first half of the anthology was mostly full of competently-written stories, worth reading, but there was nothing much that blew me out of my chair until about half-way through. The highlights of the first half were "Neverland Blues," a weird tale involving a transmogrified Michael Jackson in the Maghreb that could have been written by J.G. Ballard or William S. Burroughs, and "Trolls' Night Out," a funny piece about night creatures in a restaurant.
Things really started to pick up on page 254, when I hit the awesome "Smoking, Waiting for the Dawn," a poignant tale about two hunters of the undead written by Jason Nahrung. Nahrung's got the juice; file this guy away for future reference. This was followed immediately by "The Lanes of Camberwell," a story that makes explicit the one implicit theme that runs across many of the tales in this otherwise unthemed anthology: the existence of a sort of spiritual geography in which the characters play out their lives and encounter the fantastical. Another zombie story, this time humorous, was "Undead Camels Ate Their Flesh." The title says it all. "Riding on the Q-Ball" proves that hard SF can be as zany as any weird fantasy tale, while "In From the Snow" was a just plain disturbing and savage post-apocalypic story. I want to single out "Purgatory" for one of the most deftly-achieved shifts in perspective I have seen; it contains the literary equivalent of a successful catch on the high-wire trapeze. "Mannanan's Children" was a thoughtful reflection on the nature of life and immortality, while "The Fifth Star in the Southern Cross" was a chillingly dystopian tale worthy of David Lynch.
Several stories were almost breathtakingly well-written. These included Rjurik Davidson's "Twilight in Caeli-Amur" and the last story in the book, "Perchance to Dream" by Isobelle Carmody. All the stories, though, even the ones I didn't specifically mention, were worth reading. If you like short speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, and horror), you really can't go wrong with this collection. There is something here for everybody.
The prequel to "Dreaming Again" is Dreaming Down-Under which ten years ago was co-edited by Dann's partner Janeen Webb, an internationally acclaimed critic; he regrets that "circumstances forced her to sit this one out." That book was the first Australian volume ever to win The World Fantasy Award. It also won the Australian Ditmar Award for Best Anthology and other honors too numerous to mention.
For this current anthology, Dann chose contemporary authors who are among Australia's finest, having won numerous literary awards. Each of these gifted authors has outstanding teaching credentials and/or academic achievements.
These are truly brilliant stories, stories the reader will remember for years to come. My very favorite is "The Fooly" by Terry Dowling. In this story a man is walking a lonely road in Australia when he meets a "Fooly" along the way. The Fooly has every intention of killing him and attempts to frighten him to death as he joins him on his walk. But who is fooling who? The surprise ending will "fool" the best sleuths among the readers. This is a story of fear and wonder, which are trademarks of this author.
Another one that caught my fancy was "The Lost Property Room" by Trudi Canavan. It's about a woman who loses an umbrella on a train and what happens to her when she goes to Melbourne's Flinders Street Station to claim it. The attendant of lost property is a strange man who shows her to the room, warning her not to take the wrong umbrella. Since hers wasn't there and there were so many, she does, indeed, take one that doesn't belong to her. What happens to her and to drought-ridden Melbourne makes one of the strangest tales of "consequence" I've read in a long while.
These are odd, thought-provoking stories that a reader needs to digest at leisure in order to get the most from them. May I suggest that you read one at a time, then set the book aside before reading another. They're best served in small doses.
My favorite attributes of this book are that the author's bibliography and interesting bits of trivia precede each story, while an afterword from the author addresses how and why s/he wrote that particular story. Fascinating information! For convenience, it also has a table of contents.
Dreaming Again: Thirty-five New Stories Celebrating the Wild Side of Australian Fiction is an impressive literary achievement by any standards, but all of the stories weren't for me, anymore than they will be for other readers. That's the fun of a short story collection: the reader gets to pick and choose while learning something about many authors at the same time.
I predict this book will win as many awards as its prequel. Perhaps more. I recommend it to anyone who likes a little speculation with his fiction.
Reviewed by: Betty Dravis, November 2008
Author of Millennium Babe: The Prophecy