Interzone Review

In one of his unassuming and informative introductions to the eleven short stories collected in Strange Trades (Golden Gryphon Press, $24.95, with an introduction by Bruce Sterling), Paul Di Filippo tells us that they are all about work. Well yes, but not exactly. What most of them are really about is the circulation of capital, of which work is one of the driving forces, and several are actually sly deconstructions of the work ethic; Di Filippo is at his best when writing about people who are trying to make a living somewhere in the bottom of the system, or who have dropped out of it altogether. The denizens of the post-hippy enclave in "Spondulix," for instance, who take a casual barter arrangement and parlay it into an alternate economy whose standard is the sandwich; the commune in "Harlem Nova," who offer an alternative to the information economy-driven reconstruction of New York City; the slacker conspiracy story of "Conspiracy of Noise"; or the alliance between a crippled ex-soldier and the owner of the post-capitalist Karuna Koffeehouse, which at great cost overturns a sinister cabal of bloodcrazed billionaires.

Elsewhere there's the proto-biopunk of "Skintwister" and "Fleshflowers," the cyberpunk of "Agents," the far future tale of "The Mill" (which, despite being set on another planet in a post-human future, is at heart a crank-that-turned-the-revolution story about the clash between the dominant powers and the underclass), and the sinister fables of "SUITs" and "The Boredom Factory." Di Filippo is one of the most prolific and eclectic short-story writers in the genre, and the stories collected here, their eccentric but neatly carpentered plots crammed with tasty bits of arcane knowledge, their characters engagingly human, are so much fun to read that reviewing them doesn't seem like work at all.

—Paul McAuley, Interzone, October 2001


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