The Barnes & Noble Review
From Michael Chabon, Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist and guest editor of McSweeney's, comes a collection of fantastical stories that takes place in the borderlands -- the space between genres -- that includes original tales from Stephen King, Peter Straub, Margaret Atwood, China Miéville, and Poppy Z. Brite.
Noteworthy entries include "Minnow" by Ayelet Waldman, Daniel Handler's "Delmonico," and "7C" by Jason Roberts. "Minnow" is a dark and sorrowful tale about a young couple, Matt and Edie, who have just lost an unborn child to medical complications. Consumed with grief, Edie spends an increasing amount of time in the newly decorated baby's room listening to a phantom infant cry on the baby monitor. Her bereavement finally takes its toll in a most unexpected manner…
"Delmonico" is a hard-boiled mystery, set in a seedy bar, that features a gorgeous bartender named Davis who has a knack for solving patrons' problems. When a powerful man, as rich as he is arrogant and falsely accused of killing his wife, asks how his wife disappeared into thin air from inside a locked room, Davis serves him up exactly what he needs. The main character in the just-plain-creepy "7C" is an accident-prone astronomer studying quasars -- particles born backward. When he starts noticing childhood scars getting inflamed -- not only on himself but others around him -- his obsessive-compulsive tendencies lead him to an epiphany of sorts…
Featuring numerous illustrations by Mike Mignola (creator of Hellboy), this collection -- a diverse blend of horror, dark fantasy, and mystery -- is, simply stated, superb. Readers who enjoy "stay-up-all-night, edge-of-the-seat, fingernail-biting, page-turning" short stories should look no further than this exceptional collection. Paul Goat Allen
With this varied collection of enchanting though not always astonishing tales, Chabon (who also edited McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales) aims for an anthology full of "genre bending and stylistic play." There's quite a lineup of writers taking a stab at "genre" fiction here: many expected (Margaret Atwood, Stephen King), but a few surprises as well, and a newcomer or two. Atwood offers a fantastical tale of a human "lusus naturae" (freak of nature) who suffers from a nameless disease that results in yellow eyes, red fingernails and fangs-how does such a creature fit into a family? Jonathan Lethem's charming "Vivian Relf," which concerns two strangers who seem familiar to each other and who continue to cross each others' paths, is a kind of love story, but there are also tales creepy (Jason Roberts's "7C") and strange (China Mi ville's "Reports of Certain Events in London"). Stephen King's "Lisey and the Madman" is full of engaging detail and feeling. While a couple of stories fail to reach the high-water mark, this collection will offer readers plenty of pleasure and perhaps even a sense of doing good (an endnote says that "this book benefits 826 Valencia," the San Francisco writing lab founded by Dave Eggers and Co.). Agent, Mary Evans. (Nov. 9) Forecast: McSweeney's is making a name for itself as a sponsor of quirky anthologies, which should help sales of all its series. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Fifteen stories-more from the A-list, several from the B-get down and dirty with the new McSweeney's genre compilation. Last year's McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales proved that you can actually gather a group of fine writers (or Michael Chabon and the cool folks at McSweeney's can) and get them to turn in a collection of ghost stories, mysteries, and thrillers without the least dash of condescension. This second volume proves no different, with a superb roster of talent and some creepy, inky illustrations from "Hellboy" creator Mike Mignola, to boot. The fun begins with a solid entry from Margaret Atwood, "Lusus Naturae," about a young girl, shockingly transformed into a literal freak of nature, who hides in the woods and frightens the local children before the inevitable approach of villagers with torches. Roddy Doyle proves adept in the genre with "The Child," about a man haunted by a spectral young boy. Quickly deciding that this must be an unknown offspring of his, he cycles through his memory of lovers, but the boy's preternatural pull can't be denied, a well of dark retribution soon to be unleashed. Stephen King's "Lisey and the Madman," about the assassination of a famous author, is entertaining if occasionally too familiar, featuring many of King's usual tropes (though its air of autobiographical verisimilitude gives an unusual chill to some of the lines). One of the more impressive entries is from pulper Poppy Z. Brite, whose "The Devil of Delray Street" is a well-nuanced and unsentimental piece about a young New Orleans dweller's haunting by a ghost or devil. Brite's matter-of-fact approach to some honestly terrifying scenes makes them all the more powerful.Strong entries from China Mieville, David Mitchell, and Charles D'Ambrosio (plus a good but less impressive one from Joyce Carol Oates) round out a first-rate collection. Thrills, chills, and otherworldly spectacles: a rare anthology that delivers on its superlatives-and then some.