A meticulous craftsman in the demanding short-story form, as well as a tactful scapel-wielding verteran of many a writers' workshop, Hugo-winner Kelly (Wildlife) delivers 15 tight, deceptively simple tales with complex, often delayed reverberations. The stories dwell on such typical themes as love, loss and loneliness. In an afterword full of genial and witty observations, Kelly explains how he recently forced himself out of his "comfort zone" and discovered a "radical freedom" in writing short-shorts like "Unique Visitors" and "Hubris," unsettling glimpses of the horrors of human frailty. Several stories here relate to Kelly's other writings, like the poignant novella "Glass Cloud," his "architect story" originally intended as the opening of his third novel, Look into the Sun. Some of Kelly's most appealing characters including Phillip Wing of "Glass Cloud" and Wynne Cage, protagonist of his "first true cyberpunk story," "The Prisoner of Chillon" are shoved willy-nilly by moira, the Greeks' name for circumstances beyond one's control, into face-offs with "shiny new cybertoys" that prove dangerous and irresistible. While some of his recent attempts at paying homage to Cordwainer Smith, like "Undone," tread uneasily close to the impenetrable, others, like "The Cruelest Month," a bitterly sentimental ghost story, surprise even the author himself perhaps an indication of how difficult it often is with art, as Yeats remarked, to tell the dancer from the dance. (Sept.)
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