A perviously unpublished Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter story is just one of the many treats in Laurell K. Hamilton's box of sweet and spicy fantasies, fairy tales, and parables. The 14 stories -- six new, three from the '80s, four from the '90s, and one written last year -- represent what Hamilton calls "vacations of the mind," and all show her great delight and skill in " taking the fantastic and dropping it in the middle of the real." Some stories are from Hamilton's sword-and-sorcery days, set in the same world as her first book, Nightseer. Then there's a comical story about a posse of love-hungry cupids who pursue a commitment-phobic man and woman, and a haunting story about a woman who is the only witness to the rape and murder of her roommate by a handsome merman. We find out Anita Blake's original occupation" (zombie animator), in "Those Who Seek Forgiveness," Anita's first appearance on paper. The collection concludes with "The Girl Who Was Infatuated with Death," an Anita story set before the novel Narcissus in Chains. Here she is trying to fight her attraction to Jean-Claude with -- you guessed it -- no luck at all, just a lot of hot, chocolate-covered sex. Longtime Hamilton fans will especially enjoy the introductions to each story that give the author's perspective. Ginger Curwen
From Barnes & Noble's Explorations
The legions of hard-core Laurell K. Hamilton fans (many of whom have devotedly followed her Anita Blake saga since 1993's Guilty Pleasures) will be categorically blown away by her very first short story collection. Featuring a surprisingly diverse selection of bite-sized literary treats, the anthology spotlights Hamilton's considerable storytelling talents with tales that range from sensual to sardonic and mercurial to melancholy.
Noteworthy selections include "The Edge of the Sea," a haunting and darkly erotic story about a woman who comes face-to-face with the supernatural on the California seashore; and "Here Be Dragons," a blend of science fiction and horror that pits a therapist against a young girl whose dreams can kill. The never-before-published "Those Who Seek Forgiveness" -- the very first story ever to include Anita Blake! -- chronicles what happens when a zombie-raising goes terribly wrong. "Clean Sweep" introduces readers to Captain Housework, a three-foot superhero whose enemies include the infamous Dust Bunny Gang; and "A Lust of Cupids" is a decidedly lighthearted look at love -- with a little divine intervention.
Readers who regard Hamilton as just another overrated romantic fantasy novelist will be duly chastened after reading Strange Candy. No matter what the genre (dark fantasy, sci fi, horror, speculative fiction, etc.), Hamilton showcases her bitingly satirical wit and genre-transcendent storytelling mastery with 14 tales of love, lust, lunacy, and liberation. Delectably dark and irresistibly rich, Strange Candy is like a box of gourmet literary bonbons: Betcha can't eat only one. Paul Goat Allen