By Marty Mulrooney
A few months ago I was lucky enough to be contacted by a Senior Press Officer from Headline, who offered me a review copy of a new anthology of short stories complied and edited by bestselling authors Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity, I mean who wouldn’t?! However, it was always at the back of my mind that reviewing a collection of stories featuring 27 different authors would be a huge undertaking as a reviewer. Luckily, these guys (and gals) have made my job rather easy.
If you love reading, get this book. I cannot emphasise that point enough: this is storytelling as it should be, rising above mere genre trappings to successfully offer gripping page turners, one after the other. It is amazing to me that even though this book is positively crammed to the brim with a huge variety of different writing styles and voices, it still comes together to flow beautifully as a collaborative whole.
Al Sarrantonio and I were discussing anthologies of short stories. He had edited a huge anthology of cutting-edge horror, and another of cutting-edge fantasy, each book, in it’s way, definitive. And in talking, we realised that we has something in common: that all we cared about, really, were the stories.
Neil Gaiman – Introduction
I may as well get it out of the way right now. Just as Gaiman talks of definitive anthologies, STORIES is perhaps going to stand the test of time as one of the most definitive of them all. It is amazing how horror, drama, fantasy, science fiction and many more genres all merge here to become one. For it is true, all we should really care about in the end are the stories themselves. There has obviously been a lot of thought put into the order of the tales within this book. It reads from cover to cover as grippingly as any novel.
It is difficult to offer specific highlights, as practically every story present is a gem waiting to be discovered. Blood by Roddy Doyle and The Devil on the Staircase by Joe Hill bookend the collection perfectly, dealing with the darker side of the human psyche in starkly contrasting, yet equally effective manners. Everything in-between is of a similar high standard, ranging from Michael Marshall Smith’s dark tale of a hitman at Christmas in Unbelief, to an antiqued, pulp fiction style vision of purgatory in Polka Dots and Moonbeams by Jeffery Ford.
Elsewhere, strange, birdlike aliens infest a spaceship in Leif In The Wind by Gene Wolfe, whereas a young woman in the year 2233 is victim to a creepily literal re-enactment of a popular Christmas carol in Samantha’s Diary by Diana Wynne Jones. With such variety, there is only one constant: regardless of what genre you usually prefer, I imagine most readers will enjoy and appreciate every last page here. Each author is as worthy of their place in this anthology as the next, just crying out to be discovered, their individual tales coming together to create a rich tapestry of phenomenal literature in one unforgettable volume.
The old adage of not judging a book by its cover is a wise one, yet I have to pass comment here. Although the cover for my review copy was delightful (I have been reading an uncorrected proof for several weeks during my late night weekend shifts) I sometimes worried that it would perhaps look too quirky for the more cautious bookshop frequenters. Luckily, Headline has just last week sent me the new hardback copy of STORIES that will go on sale this coming Tuesday, 15th June 2010 and it looks equally as quirky, but perhaps not too inaccessible this time to the hesitant buyer, utilising reserved colours whilst simultaneously highlighting the pedigree of the authors within to great effect.
To conclude, this is the best book I have read in a long time: it doesn’t factor in at all that this is actually a collection of stories and authors rather than a solo effort. As a collection, the strength of this volume is extraordinary, the pleasure derived tangibly palpable. I have a feeling that STORIES: All New Tales is destined to be a classic and I plan to recommend it to as many people as humanly possible. Buy it, pour over it and treasure it forever. This is not a book to be missed.
10 OUT OF 10
STORIES: All New Tales is due for release in the UK and US on the 15th June 2010 and will be readily available from all major bookstores.