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The End of All Seasons Paperback – March 12, 2013
"Davis has a gift for short fantasy fiction - rare in my experience among even the more competent fantasy novelists - and imbues most of his stories with some genuine emotional content, also a rarity. If I had to pick favorites, I'd mention "The Angel Chamber", "When I Look to the Sky," and "The End of Summer". You'll enjoy this best if you forget about worrying about genre and just look forward to some good fiction." - Don D'Ammassa, Critical Mass
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The End of All Seasons by Russell Davis is a fantastic collection of 15 short stories and 5 beautiful poems. I love reading short fiction from master writers, as they take you on a journey using only a small amount of words, and really make you feel something: love, sadness, horror, fear, and especially wonder.
The heart and emotion conjured up is impressive and inspiring in this powerful collection. Russell Davis is a poet-storyteller for sure, and the stories are like well-crafted sculptures, weighty and full of beautiful lines. Several of the tales left me gasping for air. My favorites were "The Angel Chamber" about a little girl in truly horrifying situation, "The Things She Handed Down," "Scars Enough," "Engines of Desire and Despair," "The End of Autumn" and "The Little Match Girl," a dark re-imagining of the classic tale in a modern setting. There's something for everyone, especially for fans of speculative fiction and students of writing.
The End of All Seasons, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED,
For those unfamiliar with Davis, he is somewhat of a "jack-of-all-trades", crossing many literary genres, but perhaps best-known to "non-writers" for science fiction and western. I am more familiar with some of his sci-fi, but apparently within writing circles he's also known for about every genre, and this collection demonstrates why.
It's a quirky and weird read, and that is intended entirely as a compliment. Normally short story anthologies have "theme" or at least a consistent genre. The only theme tying things together is the author himself. While it isn't obvious that this SHOULD work, it does.
The set of stories progresses seasonally--winter to spring, and on to summer then fall. But beyond that, one never knows what is coming next, only that it's sure to be good (hence my "buffet analogy"). At one point ("The End of Spring"), I thought I was reading a modern Western, only to find myself instead reading what I thought was a horror thriller. By the end, I don't know what I read, but I had loved it and desperately wanted to know "What happened after that?".
The difficulty in reviewing short stories is that I can't say much without giving away the plot. Davis is all over the place--from reimagining the King Arthur legend (providing us the "non-white-washed" version), to turning the Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday story into a fun ghost romp. In between these two crazy departures are a number of entirely original story lines, some gritty, some funny, and some thoroughly magical.
"The Last Day of the Rest of Her Life" is one of those "can't pull your eyes away from the crash" tragedies--beautifully and painfully executed. "Houdini's Mirror" (in the opening sequence) is as magical as its name.
In the Second part ("Spring") "Engines of Desire and Despair" is just wonderful and haunting, along with "The Angel Chamber" which shows up during the "Summer" sequence.
He never lets up, with "Letter to Josie" as the Earp/Holliday entry. And he finishes strongly with "Midnight at the Half-Life Cafe"--a wonderful meditation on our mortality and our roles in that mortality, and "The Things She Handed Down", which can be called nothing less than a beautiful eulogy from the writer to his mother.
I would strongly encourage anybody to be sure and read the author's introduction and "About the Author"--with this background set of details, it becomes clear that if "The Things She Handed Down" isn't thoroughly autobiography, that it is at least heavily influenced by his experiences. I was literally driven to tears in reading it--it was so beautiful and poignant.
A mark of a good book is the "I am so tired, but I can't put this down" syndrome. Given my 2:30 a.m. reading time at one point, this definitely met the mark.
If you are looking only for "A bunch of Sci-Fi Stories" or "A bunch of Western Stories", then this may not be for you. But if you are willing to "nibble" across a wide range of genres, be entertained and engrossed, and just appreciate somebody who's good at his craft, try this book out.