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Starlings Paperback – February 13, 2018
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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A Verge Sci-Fi and Fantasy Book You’ll Want to Read in January
A Chicago Tribune New Short Story Collection Worth Reading
A Barnes & Noble Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Book of January 2018 An Unbound Worlds Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy Book of February 2018
“This collection of fiction and poetry from Hugo- and Nebula-winner Walton (The Just City) showcases her trademark focus on genre and philosophical questions . . . fans of the [short] form will have plenty to appreciate.”
“Starlings isn't really a short-story collection. It's something better: a written showreel, illustrating yet again that [Walton’s] imagination stretches to the stars (or the starlings), and that she's endlessly inventive in finding new methods to express it.”
“Jo Walton's short writings have for decades been among the things that make the Internet worthwhile. She makes science fiction illuminate life. This collection lives up to its title: iridescent, dark, gregarious, talkative and ever ready to fly up.”
―Ken MacLeod, author of Newton’s Wake and the Corporation Wars series
“Walton's diverse collection of stories and poems sparkles with originality and fun. The joy of this book will linger with me for a while.”
―Beth Cato, author of The Clockwork Dagger
“Starlings is a showcase of Jo Walton's diverse talents―a collection too varied to be summed up in a few words. From fairytale fantasy to hard science fiction, from laugh-aloud play script to finely crafted poetry, with a writing experiment or two thrown in, Starlings should delight Walton's existing fans and garner many new ones.”
―Juliet Marillier, author of Daughter of the Forest
“Stephen King once wrote that ‘a short story is like a kiss in the dark from a stranger’―that is, sudden, pleasant, mysterious, dangerous and exiting―and the collected short fiction of Jo Walton is exemplary of the principle.”
―Cory Doctorow, author of Little Brother
“Jo Walton’s delightful collection, Starlings, runs the gamut from homemade fairy tales to hard-boiled cloned-Jesus detectives (just wait for the shaggy dog); to a play with figures out of Irish myth, and a talking dragon; to a selection of her fantastic poems. It’s the kind of collection you can glide through, often while laughing out loud.”
―Gregory Frost, author of Shadowbridge
“One of the things I love about Walton’s work is her range of human possibility, from laughter to horror, but above all a reveling in profligate beauty. This collection celebrates the best in the human spirit.”
―Sherwood Smith, author of Rebel and Revenant Eve
“Reading this collection felt like watching a wizard at the cauldron having fun with new spells . . . I recommend this collection to anyone who enjoys fantasy, Jo Walton’s previous works, or wants to try shorter works before committing to longer ones.”
“Multiple award-winning science fiction and fantasy author Jo Walton’s first short fiction collection is a captivating array of fairy tales, mythology, space fiction, machine sentience, alien encounters, heaven, and more.
―Read Well Reviews
―Den of Geek
“As varied, as skilled, as intriguing as her novels, this is a stunning collection of stories, vignettes, poetry and more.”
―Best Science Fiction Books
“Coupled with Walton’s frank self-assessments, the collection offers an incredible sense of intimacy. It’s the closest we’ll come to understanding how Jo Walton’s dizzying writer’s mind ticks along, and how her imagination flows. It’s a rare opportunity, to peek in on the inventor in her workshop. Starlings is revelatory not only as a collection of fiction, but as a sort of biography of the process of writing itself. Fascinating.”
―Barnes and Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog
“Sharp, focused, and fresh.”
“5/5 stars. There wasn’t anything that I didn’t like about [Starlings]. It ticked all boxes for me.”
―The Misadventures of a Reader
“A wild and wonderful imagination at work.”
―Emerald City Book Review
“A master class in studying technique, form, and ending stories with zingers.”
"Walton’s honesty and bold confidence gives this collection its edge; her voice and passion is clear throughout and many of the themes and ideas she weaves into her stories are thought-provoking and resonant. A strong collection from a giant of fiction."
“Walton’s writing is as good as ever. But what really shines through this collection is the calibre of Walton’s ideas.”
“Lovely and artful, a definite must read for 2018.”
―A Bookish Beginning
Praise for Jo Walton
“Brilliant, compelling, and, frankly, unputdownable.”
“As before, Walton has done a superb job of world building and character development, giving readers a novel that both stimulates and satisfies.”
―Booklist, starred review
“There’s more substance here than in many actual philosophy books.”
On Among Others
“A wonder and a joy.”
―The New York Times
“Never deigning to transcend the genre to which it is clearly a love letter, this outstanding (and entirely teen-appropriate) tale draws its strength from a solid foundation of sense-of-wonder and what-if.”
―Publishers Weekly, starred review
“There are the books you want to give all your friends, and there are the books you wish you could go back and give your younger self. And then there’s the rare book, like Jo Walton’s Among Others, that’s both.”
On The King’s Peace
“The King’s Peace is the novel that The Mists of Avalon should have been.”
―Debra Doyle, author of School of Wizardry
“Walton writes with an authenticity that never loses heart, a rare combination in a genre where we are so often offered one or the other.”
―Robin Hobb, author of Assassin’s Apprentice
“There is not an ill-written sentence . . . Never lacks immediacy or loses its historical quality.”
About the Author
Jo Walton is a Welsh-Canadian author of science fiction, fantasy, and poetry. She has published thirteen novels, most recently Necessity. A fourteenth, Lent is due out in Fall 2017. Walton has also published three poetry collections and an essay collection. She won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2002, the World Fantasy Award for Tooth and Claw in 2004, the Hugo and Nebula awards for Among Others in 2012, and in 2014, both the Tiptree Award for My Real Children and the Locus Award for What Makes This Book So Great. Walton comes from Wales, has lived in England, and now lives in Montreal, where the food and books are much better.
Top customer reviews
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Starlings is a collection of short fiction and poetry. Walton is not known as a writer of short fiction; as she states in her introduction, novels came much more naturally to her than short fiction ever did. In fact, Starlings is her first collection of short stories, and the poetry that is included in the volume is, in her words, her fourth poetry collection. The stories and poetry collected here are as diverse in their subject matter as they are in their
style and technique. This was a different kind of book for me to read in more ways that one, not the least of which is the fact that it contains poetry. More on that a bit later on. However, one of the things I enjoyed about the book was that instead of an introduction before each story, Walton gives the reader a background for the story at the end, a sort of "now that you've read it, here's the deal with it". That kind of structure appealed to me and
I really enjoyed it.
The book contains a lot of pieces that Walton says aren't stories at all; they might be pieces that play with form, mode, or point of view. A good number of them defy description or summary. For example, "Parable Lost" certainly be read as a parable, but don't get lost in all the jellyfish. Then there's "Escape to Other Worlds with Science Fiction", a piece that's stitched together from newspaper, ads from various science fiction magazines (among other things), and story fragments. It certainly isn't a story, but it's fascinating in any event. There's a snippet of a narrative called "What Joseph Felt", a retelling of a portion of the circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus from the point of view of Joseph; I enjoyed this one quite a bit. There's a book review, written by an alien, of a novel that has humans as its central characters, entitled "The Need to Stay the Same". At one point the review complains, albeit gently, of the book being the eighth book in the sequence and the "themes are staring to feel familiar" - there's something we see all too much of in this field. "Joyful and Triumphant: St. Zeobius and the Aliens" is a wonderful guide for new residents of heaven who are a bit surprised that there are aliens there. Growing up Catholic, I certainly never thought that there'd be anything other than humans in heaven. I found the piece interesting and delightful. "Turnover" is a piece that I think of as a short story, but Walton says is the first chapter of a novel; if that's true, then this is a novel that I'd like to read. It takes place on a generational starship, and in this particular bit we're joining some of the starship travelers for lunch as they talk about whether they want to go on to the landing or not, as the Turnaround of the story, where the ship turns around and begins deceleration toward the planet upon which it intends to land, is quickly approaching. The idea of residents of a generational starship born during the journey discussing that they didn't choose this life - it was chosen for them - is not a new one in science fiction, but the idea of being a figurative fly on the wall during one of these discussions is intriguing. "What Would Sam Spade Do?" is a piece with a fascinating idea: clones of Jesus are a common ethnic group in the United States. The narrative relates the circumstances under which one clone is investigating the death of another clone at the hands of yet a third clone. The idea that someone would find Jesus' genetic material and create clones of him is interesting in and of itself, and the oddness of the investigation is an intriguing and interesting way of using the concept.
Real honest to goodness stories? How about "Unreliable Witness", about a woman with dementia who meets aliens - and of course, no one believes her. One of my favorite pieces in the book is entitled "Three Shouts on a Hill (A Play). It's a story told in play form based on an Irish legend. My wife may be half Irish (on her father's side), but I've never heard the legend before. This one had me going for awhile as I didn't know where it was headed. It was certainly a lot of fun. "A Burden Shared" is a wonderful piece the central conceit of which is the fact that a person's pain can be shared by other people, but the story is really about familial relationships and how we deal with suffering loved ones.
The remaining prose pieces are generally just as interesting and just as creative and diverse as those I've already talked about. They nicely demonstrate Walton's range as a writer and storyteller. There are many pieces throughout the book, either some that I've mentioned above or those that I haven't, that I would like to see fleshed out into complete stories or novels.
The second section of the book is a collection of poetry. In the interest of full disclosure, I've never been into poetry; maybe it's because I don't know how to read it or appreciate it for the many and varied forms it takes. I will admit to having a difficult time in reading and appreciating the poetry that appears here. Favorites are "Ten Years Ahead: Oracle Poem", a piece that tries to predict the future; "The Godzilla Sonnets", the title of which I
suspect is fairly self-explanatory; and "Three Bears Norse", the subject of which may be obvious.
Starlings is a collection that demonstrates Jo Walton's ability as a writer. The pieces within show off her range and versatility, her style and technique. This short story collection may not contain a whole lot of traditional short stories, but what it does contain is a whole bunch of good old fashioned high quality writing, the kind she demonstrated in AMONG OTHERS, and the kind I expect we'll see from her as her career continues
You can find fairy tales, sci-fi, magical realism, satire, mythology, exercises and poems. All these stories are imbued with fantasy and a wonderful writing style that carries you effortlessly from one page to the next. Each story is a world of their own. Their style, tone, narrative and POV also changes from story to story but they are all similar in that they posses an enchanting "out of this world" feeling to them.
The unpredictability when going from one story to the next made my reading experience even more enjoyable; I didn't know what to expect and needed to clear my mind so I could welcome the next story. It was exciting to speculate what kind of world would come next, would it be on earth? space? or inside a fairy tale?. I let myself be carried away by Walton's prose and poems and fully enjoyed it. Some stories felt perfect as they are, while others left me wishing there was more. At the end of each one, an afterword is included telling us about the author's inspiration or purpose on writing each piece and information about previous publications.
My favorite stories were:
Three Twilight Tales: 3 tales that take place in the same village, in a cozy inn warmed by a fireplace. The first one concerning a man made of moonshine, the second one a peddler selling wondrous items and the third, a king in search for adventure. I loved the atmosphere, the detailed descriptions of the place and the unexpected endings for each tale.
On the Wall: related to a well known fairy tale, we get to know a new side of the story from the point of view of an unexpected secondary character.
The Panda Coin: an science fiction exercise where a series of stories unfold in chains as a coin passes from hand to hand, thus allowing us to know the story of its handler and, as the story progresses, gives us a clearer picture of this bizarre world. I really liked the idea of a coin being the key that connects one character to the other and pushes the story forward. As with the other stories, you never guess how it will develop and end until it happens.
Since the beginning, Walton warns us that short stories is not her forte and that most of the stories are not even real short stories but, for example, exercises, first chapters or prose poems. I really didn't mind that, I found those apparently imperfect pieces to be full of wonderful ideas, worlds and emotions that left me smiling, dreaming and craving for more.
eArc provided by Tachyon Publications via NetGalley
Most recent customer reviews
The stories are varied -- mixing sci-fi and fantasy and almost-realism, different...Read more