Interzone Review



Enchanting

by

Paul Brazier

It is salutary to be reminded that the longer short story form is also alive and well outside the pages of Interzone. What is especially pleasing is that the reminder should take such an exquisite form— from its wonderful jacket illustration through its solid hardback heft and acid-free paper to its top grade literate fantastic stories, Stories for an Enchanted Afternoon (Golden Gryphon Press, $24.95) is a delight. It collects many of Kristine Kathryn Rusch's more recent award-winning and nominated stories into a volume that is a chastisement to the larger publishers who didn't produce this book themselves. Gary Turner and Marty Halpern at Golden Gryphon Press have stolen a march on their larger competitors by producing a beautiful book filled with beautiful stories.

And it would be silly to try to pick out a favourite among these tales. Rusch draws the reader effortlessly into the lives of people in the throes of difficult life decisions with a sensitivity that borders on telepathic, and all this with nary a war in sight. Here we have a stepmother having problems with an adopted child, there a reporter on a weird event at Mount Rushmore, and yonder a person whose job appears to be to surf the wave of popular culture, always staying just ahead of the peak. Conflict, sure, there's conflict; no one could write as many good novels as Rusch has without a deep understanding of how the conflict between human characters drives narrative. But, equally, without that deep understanding, no one could have produced these enchanting stories that sometimes appear to slip from magical realism to supernatural to numinous and back all in a sentence while leaving the reader gasping at the emotional depth being revealed.

Let me be plain. Almost without exception, these stories are science fiction, with properly worked out backgrounds and believable technological projections. There is no vapid fantasy that is more wish-fulfillment than insight; rather we have an author with the strength of mind to work out what might happen in the future, the insight into character to grasp how that might affect real people, and the consummate skill as a writer to allow her to describe this in such a way as to be utterly compelling.

It is tempting to compare her to Le Guin, but that would be invidious. Rusch is as good, but entirely in her own way. From the shaky start of her fascinating first novel, White Mists of Power, she has gone on to write ever more tough-minded and perceptive novels, moving incidentally through every genre—science fiction, fantasy, horror, dark fantasy, serial killer, vampire, Star Trek, and (I was delighted to discover recently) romances (as Kristine Grayson). However, while this gives me several more novels to investigate, it is an astonishing treat to have these eleven stories from her in one volume with no apparent diminution in quality. If, like me, you like science-fiction stories that have a heart as well as a mind, you will love this book. Do yourself a favour. Buy, beg, borrow or steal it; but read it.

—Paul Brazier, Interzone, October 2001



 

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