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Mutation Nation: Tales of Genetic Mishaps, Monsters, and Madness Paperback – December 17, 2011
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The first three stories in the collection -- "Angel and Grace," by Ed Kurtz, "Queen of Hearts," by Helen E. Davis, and "Swanson," by Jarrett Keene -- show its strength and its diversity. "Angel and Grace" is a classical tale of backwoods horror, a claustrophobic wedding that might've been planned by H. P. Lovecraft. "Queen of Hearts" is a dark, disturbing exploration of fear of medical procedures gone wrong, with an opening that could induce nightmares if read at the wrong time. "Swanson" is a brilliant, twisted tale of conspiracies involving a reclusive billionnaire, a humanoid robot, and bitter fruits of nuclear testing -- a tale that the early Heinlein might well have been proud to write. Any anthology that can start with three such stories deserves praise.
The remaining stories in the collection are generally well written and well plotted, though some of them work for me better than others. Of them, I especially enjoyed "Compatible Donor" (JT Rowland), a grim exploration of how a gift can be a curse, "Chrysalis" (Roberta Lannes) a dark, lyrical tale of alienation and transformation, and "Menagerie of the Maladapted" (Stephen Woodworth), a haunting exploration of death and rebirth in a dying world.
I have to say that I found "Dream in a Box," by Wendy Rathbone, powerfully moving, though, having lived through something much like the protagonist's experience in the story, I can't be objective about it. The anthology closes with a masterful literary piece, "The Transmutation," by Charles Austin Muir.
The stories in Mutation Nation approach its theme from many directions, ranging from hard science-fiction to classical horror. In a couple of the stories, the theme was present only in the deepest background. Still, these may appeal to you as much as the others do. Over all, Kelly Dunn did a fine job of assembling a set of stories with no clunkers and with something to appeal to just about any reader of speculative fiction.
An intriguing collection of eleven stories exploring what occurs when the human body mutates. Ranging from horror to emotional prose, each contribution offers a fanciful insight into something potentially horrendous. As a fan of short fiction stories, I was enthralled by this topic in particular, as one which is endlessly fascinating. My personal favorites stories in this collection were "Angel and Grace," by Ed Kurtz, "Swanson," by Jarret Keene, and the touching story "The Dream In a Box," by Wendy Rathbone.