From Publishers Weekly
Pathos, poignance and gentle humor accent the nine stories in this stellar fantasy collection from Spencer (Zod Wallop
), whose characters engage readers' sympathies through their efforts to accommodate the tectonic shifts of wildly unpredictable life experiences. "The Oddskeeper's Daughter" begins as a fantasy of a man's love for an otherworldly woman before revealing itself to be a moving meditation on the frailty and tenuousness of romance itself. In the title story, a family's annual visit to a seaside resort ends with a tragedy that reveals the awe and terror of the sea to the jaded innkeeper who has long taken it for granted. The book's best selection is the giddy "The Essayist in the Wilderness," whose unreliable narrator—a writer who looks to the natural world as inspiration for his philosophic reflections—is blissfully ignorant that the animal activity he is reporting is not only unnatural but potentially horrifying. Spencer includes an insightful introduction on the importance of fiction that the contents of his book bear out magnificently. (June)
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Spencer's second story collection, after The Return of Count Electric and Other Stories
(1993), is a slim but extraordinary volume of strange and haunting tales beautifully told. The title story, which has a certain Lovecraftian atmosphere, concerns the puzzle of an enigmatic family's annual off-season visit to a seaside resort. "The Essayist in the Wilderness" takes on both the writer's search for inspiration and an infestation of alien creatures that, in fact, are not
crayfish. In "The Oddskeeper's Daughter," Spencer reveals the relationship of a woman from Sweeper City, where chance is sacred and gambling is not a game, and a man of our world. In "The Lights of Armageddon," the world is threatened by lightbulbs, both those sold by a magician, which summon the Fair Ones, and those sold by his rival, which summon something from the Immutable Abyss. Spencer's stories are scintillating creations, disturbing and beautiful, and his introduction about the perils of being a short story writer is an illuminating diversion, too. Regina SchroederCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved