Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Hart and Boots - a review

Ruby passed along this short story collection, telling me that the author "wrote like me." Which he finds a great honor, I'm sure.

Of course, I had to see what an author who "writes like me," but gets published, is like.

The main difference, of course, is that he is good, and after this next line I will stop using this post as an excuse to talk about my own failures in life.

Tim Pratt, is... I think the technical term is hot shit. The short stories in this collection are written in a vein that I especially like, which is called, variously, the New Weird, Cross-Genre, or Urban Fantasy. This can mean a lot of things. The stories are all set in modern eras. The furthest from modern that he gets is the old west, which is still a long way from knights in shining armor and bards and unicorns. Which are good in their own place, but I've always liked this kind of thing better.

The characters all have a modern sensibility mixed with mythological elements. They are women struggling to get ahead in their profession (stage coach robbing), lesbians sharing apartments with mythological creatures, nebbishes falling in love and stumbling across hidden treasures, assassins looking for the lost soul of a wizard who hid it to become immortal (but after so long would like to die now, thank you very much).

Sometimes they mix technology with magic, or fantasy with other genres, like westerns, super heroes, or space opera.

And even when they talk about big subjects (finding god, becoming a god, killing unkillable monsters) they are always about why people would want to do those things to begin with.

None of the stories were bad. The ones I liked best were the most fabulous, with the most detailed fretwork, but the quieter ones were all strong, and more importantly, fun. None of the stories attempt to put you in your place by being maudlin. Even the most dour end with little jokes. They all have wonder and hope mixed in with the awe and terror.

Because there is so much to like, I can't pause to give you highlights in such a short review. I'll tell you about my two clear favorites, and hope they pique your interest enough to pick this up. Cup and Table is about super heroes looking for God, and has the most perfect closing line. I thought it tied the whole story up like a bow.

Impossible Dreams won a Hugo and you can find it on the other side of the link. It takes an old twilight zone story (film buff finds a video shop carrying movies from an alternate universe) and gives it such a sweet twist that it really becomes quite it's own thing.

This volume offers a lot more, though. It is compulsively readable, beautiful, companionable fiction about the kind of flawed reprobates I used to hang about with.

No comments: