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Not So Much, Said the Cat Paperback – August 9, 2016
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Half Neil Gaiman, half Kelly Link, wonderfully unique.”
[STARRED REVIEW] Another collection of speculative fiction from Swanwick (Chasing the Phoenix, 2015, etc.), one of a handful of writers whose short pieces are as impressive as their novels. Versatility, craftsmanship, a dollop of weird, and a delightfully askew sense of humor are key to the 17 pieces here, all of which appeared between 2008 and 2014, together with an introduction that illuminates the contents without revealing too much. Certain themes, of course, are authorial favorites, such as time travel, aliens, and artificial intelligence. There's a man who, having suffered a crushing loss, finds solace after accidental contact with a time traveler; a group of time travelers hunkered down at the end of the Cretaceous periodwhere, oddly, nobody's interested in the dinosaurs; and a scientist who finds a partner worthy of her genius. We also get a fascinating glimpse (which feels like a novel fragment) of a far future populated by humans and centipedelike aliens, narrated by the intelligent space suit of a woman who's dead as the story begins; and another future where human lives resemble those in fairy tales while advanced, hidden AIs battle for supremacy. Elsewhere, in a literary-games vein, the characters in a fairy tale discuss whether they prefer to remain in books, and immortal, or enter history; there's a famous Gene Wolfe story stripped down, turned inside out, and rebuilt to perfection; and, in a marvelous conceit, the writer Alexander Pushkin appears as he may have beenin an alternative universe. To round out the collection, we meet a dutiful young woman who, entering hell to challenge the devil to return her father, discovers that things are not as she assumed; Darger and Surplus, those good-hearted rogues with a propensity to shoot themselves in the foot, make an appearance, as does "The House of Dreams," an entry from Swanwick's splendid Mongolian Wizard e-book series. Tales that, through their extraordinary clarity of thought and expression, showcase precisely why this multiaward-winning author is held in such high regard.”
A Washington Post Best New Science Fiction Pick (August 2016)
Michael Swanwick shows his extraordinary range in Not So Much, Said the Cat (Tachyon) . . . Swanwick’s stories are wistful and weird, at times tragic yet still hopeful as the mythic and scientific intertwine.”
Swanwick excels at satisfying conclusions that cause readers to take pause and consider the actions of the characters. Thoughtful, witty, and, at times, disturbing, this collection will appeal to those who enjoy short fiction, no matter the genre.”
An entertaining read from beginning to end, with plenty of tales to amuse, making for a great collection of short stories. Besides, who wouldn't want to spend some time with a sly seductive circus performer, some con artists and a robotic scarecrow with a conscience, and all without leaving the comfort of your sofa!”
Ultimately, I think what strikes me most forcefully about Swanwick’s fiction, aside from his fresh yet historically resonant conceits, is its elegance and economy. Per the definition of the perfect short story, not a word is extraneous or wasted, not one element of plot inessential.”
Paul Di Filippo, Locus
You think you’re getting the kind of hors d’oeuvre many short stories deliver. But settle down, you’re in for a full gourmet meal that makes you feel as if you’ve just enjoyed a novel and lost a friend when you’ve finished it.”
This collection of short stories by five time Hugo award winning author Michael Swanwick is simply a delight to read . . . It’s a rare glimpse into how short stories should be constructed, and I guarantee, they’ll leave you thinking well after each story is done.”
Open Book Society
[Swanwick’s] writing is flawless and creative, his characters incredibly well-developed for short stories, and the descriptive nature of his text can make you feel as if you’re living in these other worlds right along with the characters.”
Swanwick can move between genres so effortlessly and so competently that there’s no need for limitations.”
Green Man Review
OKit’s official. Michael Swanwick is a god. He makes worlds that work, every tick and tock of them. He makes people who cry, sweat, puke, fall in love, die in conceivable ways. He’s smart and crafty, passionate and wily. Both trickster and life-giver. He creates and uncreates. And yes, he brings Light. If I don't exactly worship him, I read every story of his I can get my hands on. So thanks, Tachyon for bringing me more storiessome old favorites, some I hadn't read before. Because gods need their readers, and God knows, I need more Swanwick.”
Jane Yolen, author of Briar Rose
I would effuse about the excellence of the stories within this collectionMichael Swanwick's eleventh suchfor they are by turns shocking, delightful, puckish, innovative, and electric. . . . However, I am too busy plotting how to steal the devil’s stone (given to him by a Siberian shaman) that Michael keeps by his typewriter in order to unlock his writing power, all without disturbing his cat.”
Fran Wilde, Nebula-nominated author of Updraft and Cloudbound
This is standard Swanwick, where the reader’s feet never quite touch the ground. Brilliant.”
Jack McDevitt, author of The Engines of God
Michael Swanwick is one of our most reliably entertaining and provocative writers.”
Greg Bear, author of Darwin’s Radio
Is there any SF writer, living or dead or cryonically suspended, who rivals Michael Swanwick for sheer virtuosity? I think not. From the hard-sf poignancy of The Woman Who Shook the World Tree’ to the Borgesian high jinks of The Man in Gray,’ from the beguiling folk fantasy of The Dala Horse’ to the post-cyberpunk intensity of Libertarian Russia,’ from the Bulgakov-inflected phantasmagoria of Of Finest Scarlet Was Her Gown’ to the psychological realism (and biological surrealism) of Passage of Earth’I could go onNot So Much, Said the Cat reveals an author who is a Jack-of-all-genres and their master as well.”
James Morrow author of Galápagos Regained
Speculative fiction is such a deep, wide ocean, that no matter how much one explores, one will always find something more. Michael Swanwick's new anthology, Not So Much, Said the Cat is a beautiful, brilliant pearl.”
The Reading Desk
A perfect marriage of classic stories and bleeding edge tech, from godlike continental AIs to the abolishment of time, clever discourse on libertarianism and zero-sum economics in a mirroring tale of humanity and alien bugs, fairy tales and one of the best futuristic con-games I've ever had the pleasure of consuming.”
Brad K. Horner
I fell head-over-heels in love with this collection of stories.”
Lipstick and Libraries
A whirlwind of stories that take you across the world, through different pockets of time, and into a sample of the lives being lived, Not So Much, Said the Cat is an excellent compilation. Swanwick’s latest book is a delight to read, both entertaining and insightful.”
"True to form, Swanwick’s collection is eclectic, charming, and moving."
This magnificent collection is essential reading material to those who love quality and originality. The stories contained within its covers are simply marvellous and offer plenty of entertainment, excellent prose, memorable scenes and thought-provoking moments to readers.”
Swanwick writes clear, elegant prose that is a joy to read, and excels at creating lifelike characters. Each story is a complete work of art.”
Speculative fiction is such a deep, wide ocean, that no matter how much one explores, one will always find something more. Michael Swanwick’s new anthology, Not So Much, Said the Cat is a beautiful, brilliant pearl.”
The Reading Desk
This collection proves that Swanwick is a name that should be mentioned every time people speak of Gaiman, Link, Shepard, Martin or Harlan Ellison. And Not So Much, Said the Cat is a collection that should be in every home.”
On Books and Writing
Each story is exquisite, the perfect density of plot, carefully crafted, beautifully executed.”
If you read The Phantom Tollbooth as a child then Not So Much, Said the Cat is probably something you would be interested in!”
With his new collection, Not So Much, Said the Cat, Michael Swanwick once again proves himself one of science fiction’s most consistently imaginative and versatile short story writers.”
“Any collection by the inventive and mischievous Michael Swanwick is a treasure, and Not So Much Said the Cat is a special treat...”
Locus, Year in Review
“Swanwick’s latest story collection shows off the author’s impressively wide range.”
“[Swanwick] is a short story writer on the order of Theodore Sturgeon, Shirley Jackson, and Roger Zelazny. . . enticing and delighting and horrifying all at once.”
―New York Review of Science Fiction
“The newest collection of Michael Swanwick’s work is a brilliant compilation of science fiction and fantasy.”
―Foundation 126, University of Liverpool
“Michael Swanwick once again proves that he is a master of short fiction.”
Praise for Michael Swanwick
Swanwick's wildly imaginative and beautifully written short stories have been, for several years, one of the primary joys of the field.”
Washington Post Book World
One of contemporary sf’s greatest short-story writers.”
One of the most powerful and consistently inventive short story writers of his generation.”
Gardner Dozois, editor of the Year’s Best Science Fiction series
An amazingly assured writer, seemingly incapable of writing a sentence that isn't interesting in itself, in addition to the way it moves the sentence forward.”
New York Review of Science Fiction
Michael Swanwick is darkly magnificent.”
Jack McDevitt, author of The Engines of God
Swanwick's prose takes no prisoners.”
Time Out Chicago
About the Author
Michael Swanwick is one of the most acclaimed science-fiction and fantasy short-story writers of his generation, having received an unprecedented five consecutive Hugo Awards. He has also the winner of the Theodore Sturgeon and World Fantasy awards. Swanwick s novels include "The Iron Dragon s Daughter," a "New York Times" Notable Book, and the Nebula Awardwinning "Stations of the Tide." His short fiction has appeared in many venues, including "OMNI, Penthouse, Amazing, Asimov s Science Fiction, New Dimensions," and "Full Spectrum," and his work has been translated into more than ten languages. Swanwick is currently at work on a third novel set in Industrialized Faerie.
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Top Customer Reviews
Comments on indidvidual stories follow. If you somehow missed “From Babel's Fall'n Glory We Fled” STOP RIGHT NOW and go read it! (link below). By far the best in the book, in my pointy-head Space Cadet opinion….
• Introduction: “Where I am now, I think” • Original essay, and one of the high-points, for me.
• “The Man in Grey” • (2011, Eclipse 4). All the world’s a stage. POV of a stage-hand.
• “The Dala Horse” • (2011, tor.com) • novelette. Russian-themed science-fantasy. Check out the great Julie Dillon art at the link:
(see first comment, per house rules)
• “The Scarecrow's Boy” • (2008, F&SF) . Housebot and carbot to the rescue!
• “Passage of Earth” • (2014, Clarkeworld). “The Agency needs you to perform an autopsy.” Ick. (Link below)
• “3 A.M. in the Mesozoic Bar” • (2014, Far Voyager) . … and Chicxulub falls at Dawn!
• “Of Finest Scarlet Was Her Gown” • (2014, Asimovs) • novelette. Beelzebub, the Cover Cat from Hell.
• The Woman Who Shook the World-Tree • (2012, tor.com) . Love over Science, and a BIG bang. One of 5 stories based on an intriguing painting by John Jude Palencar: (Link below)
• “Goblin Lake” • (2010, STORIES anthology). An oddball historical fantasy. Didn’t work well for me.
• "From Babel's Fall'n Glory We Fled ..." • (2008, Asimov’s). A great story, one of his best short space-operas. “Hello. I’m Rosamund. I’m Dead.” (Link below)
• “For I Have Lain Me Down on the Stone of Loneliness and I'll Not Be Back Again” • (2011, Asimovs). Future terrorism, Irish style, with a sexy master (mistress?)-mind. Why oh why didn’t this story win a major award?
• “Libertarian Russia” • (2010, Asimovs). "Easy Rider" in a post-post Soviet Russia. Won Asimov’s Readers award.
• “Tawny Petticoats” [Darger and Surplus #4] • (2014, Rogues ) • novelette. An elaborate scam in a *way* post-post antebellum New Orleans. Another FAIL by the award voters. What is it with these people?
• “Steadfast Castle” • (2010, F&SF). Sort-of hommage to “There Will Come Soft Rains”, the Bradbury classic. Or not.
• “Pushkin the American” • (2012, Unfit for Eden). A *different* Alt-“true history”.
• “An Empty House With Many Doors” • (2011, Asimovs). “For a Foggy Night” revisited, or sub your own favorite Many Worlds tale. Not as grim as some. Sort-of a happy ending….
• “The She-Wolf's Hidden Grin” • [The Fifth Head of Cerberus] • (2013, Shadows of the New Sun). *Very* grim story of two sisters Coming of Age. Not for the easily-squicked.
• “The House of Dreams” [Mongolian Wizard #4] • (2013, tor.com). Not one of my faves in the series. But try some others, and check Gregory Manchess’s cool cover-art: (Link below)
This is a *really, really good* collection. I’ve linked the stories available online, so you can judge for yourself. What a pity the author has been paid so little, for such stellar results!
Disclosures: I’m a fan, and a friend. I bought my copy out of my own pocket.
Links at first comment, per house rules.
Guaranteed happy reading*--
Peter D. Tillman
*Or I'll eat my socks!
This is a collection of short stories, I've got to warn you, don't expect many happy fuzzy endings. And that's as close to any spoilers I'll get.
The writing is simply fantastic, how this author has been around for so long without catching my attention is beyond belief. I must, and will, read more of his work. His characters are fleshed out and feel like real people even if they make just a short appearance. Usually in a collection of short stories there's always at least one story I can say I didn't enjoy and it didn't happen in this collection. I really liked each and every story. Some more than others, some plucked at the heartstrings a little too closely but every story was worth the time it took to read it. I honestly can't wait to read more.
I have grown so tired of reading "Best of" collections where the stories go nowhere and seem to be undisciplined in their ability to tell a story. The stories in this collection do what they are supposed to do: tell an entertaining story with a beginning, middle and end and some sense of closure.
The stories are:
The Man in Grey - All the world's a stage, and some of us are talent and the rest are just props.
The Dala Horse - Norse Legends and advanced computing.
The Scarecrow’s Boy - Loyalty, as Sony intended.
Passage of Earth - This one involves a really different way of communicating and thinking.
3 A.M. in the Mesozoic Bar - Human life on Earth faces extermination in the age of the Dinosaurs
Of Finest Scarlet Was Her Gown - Su-Yin goes to Hell out of Love and must preserve her virtue in a place without virtue. This one is particularly witty.
The Woman Who Shook the World-Tree - Love among the Big Bang set.
Goblin Lake - Set during the Thirty Years War and asking the question about what is fiction and what is reality?
From Babel’s Fall’n Glory We Fled . . . This is one is stunningly inventive. A human on a Hellish planet who comes from a culture where information is money and wealth must make his way to safety with an alien millipede for whom trust is money and wealth. Worldbuilding and culture building in the space of a short story.
For I Have Lain Me Down on the Stone of Loneliness and I’ll Not Be Back Again - Whether it is human or alien oppressors, the Irish will be fighting their hopeless fight for independence with dynamite or the equivalent. (This one again, is a story that made me want to know the backstory.)
Libertarian Russia - Libertarianism is great in theory, but maybe not so much in practice. (Again, this is a story where there is a scant reference to "the Depopulation" that made me want to know more, but we don't get to learn more. The phrase explains the world, and that is all we get.)
Tawny Petticoats - Surplus and Dagger come to New Orleans after the collapse of Civilization 2.0 and the town will never be the same again. Humorously entertaining.
Steadfast Castle - Love, computers and architecture.
Pushkin the American - A great story set in a slightly different version of Russia.
An Empty House with Many Doors - This one put me in mind of Larry Niven's "All the Myriad Ways."
The She-Wolf’s Hidden Grin - Another story where the backstory is brilliantly hinted at. Humanity has colonized St. Anne's....or has it?
The House of Dreams - This one is hard to classify. Is it fantasy or alt.hist? A man making his way through a war-torn Germany is captured and interrogated by Mongolian wizards and rescued by his partner, who is a werewolf. Great story.
The writing of all these stories was amusing and introspective and clean and efficient. I enjoyed all the stories; perhaps "From Babel's Fallen Glory" was my favorite because it seemed a worthy successor - perhaps better as literature - to Hal Clement. Also it was nice to get a taste of Swanwick's Surplus and Dagger anti-heroes, who put me in mind of Vance's Cugel the Clever.