UNREAL WORLDSThe Empire of Ice Cream
By Jeffrey Ford (Golden Gryphon, $24.95). Grade: A
If you haven't discovered the magical world of Jeffrey Ford, it's time you did. And there's no better way than by sampling two collections of his short works published by Golden Gryphon Press, The Fantasy Writer's Assistant and Other Stories and his latest, The Empire of Ice Cream.
As Jonathan Carroll says in his introduction to The Empire of Ice Cream, "Like any strong short story collection, you can pick this one up and read around in it, sample various stories like food at a great buffet . . . There isn't a bad taste, a bad story here."
In the 13 tales reprinted from various (sometimes obscure) sources, Ford offers readers travels to many wondrous realms. In "Giant Land" a modern woman is snatched from her automobile and fattened up for a giant's dinner before she makes a sneaky escape. "The Annals of Eelin-Ok" records the journal of a tiny fairy who lives in a sand castle on the beach before the incoming tide inexorably destroys it and him.
"Coffins on the River" goes into the minds of an artist and a writer who have ingested a rare hallucinogen; the title story is narrated by one of the few individuals who experiences constant synesthesia — the ability to smell colors and taste sounds and the like; and the subject of "The Beautiful Gelreesh" is part monster, part psychotherapist, a shape-shifter who makes his patients feel good about killing themselves and then eats them.
The highlight of the collection is "Botch Town." This previously unpublished novella about growing up in a New Jersey suburb in the 1950s is reminiscent of Ray Bradbury in such works as Something Wicked This Way Comes, Dandelion Wine and The Halloween Tree. A young boy, with the help of his older brother and his (possibly) autistic sister, dips into the supernatural to solve a murder that has cursed the neighborhood.
Time's a wasting. Get The Empire of Ice Cream and start reading.
— Mark Graham, Rocky Mountain News, June 9, 2006