This splendid collection of 11 SF and fantasy stories, most of novelette length and loosely predicated on the theme of work, showcases some excellent writing from the underrated Di Filippo (The Steampunk Trilogy; Ciphers; Ribofunk; etc.). An introduction by Hugo winner Bruce Sterling will attract attention, as will the Frank Kelly Freas jacket, but these witty, thoughtful, accessible tales require no special hype. The book's finest story, "The Mill," set in a grim, factory-dominated town of seemingly 19th-century vintage, has a humanity worthy of Dickens or Hardy. It's almost a letdown to discover its fantasy basis. Never shy of paying tribute to his predecessors, Di Filippo honors Samuel R. Delany and Philip K. Dick in "Harlem Nova" and "Karuna, Inc.," while in "Agents" he playfully parodies Asimov's three laws of robotics with his "Three Laws Governing Agents." Most consistently funny is "Spondulix" (i.e., money issued by a desperate restaurant, payable in sandwiches), with a character named "Ped Xing, the only man in the world to profess both Orthodox Judaism and Zen monkhood." In "Skintwister," the ultimate plastic surgeon works from within his patient. The author appropriately concludes with a light Kafkaesque fable, "The Boredom Factory," in which a character known as P. is the first to be employed by a factory that produces nothing but plans on increasing the work force exponentially. Discriminating SF fans are in for a treat. (Oct.)
FYI: After the death of Golden Gryphon founding editor James Turner in 1999, there was some question whether the press would survive. As evidenced here and in other recent titles, the press, under the directorship of Turner's brother Gary, is maintaining high standards.
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