Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Newer, weirder worlds

kw: book reviews, science fiction, fantasy, anthologies, story reviews

In the introduction to one story Cory Doctorow mentions that he is, at most, very distantly related to E.L. Doctorow. He certainly bears very little similarity as a writer...and that's fortunate. I have twice gotten no more than five pages into one of old E.L.'s books.

Cory's 2003 collection, A Place So Foreign and Eight More, comprises the much of his shorter work. His unique slant provides frequent surprises, and his skills make the stories a pleasure to read, even though he has his generation's penchant for casual vulgarity. These nine stories are about as mixed a bag as I've seen:
  • Craphound: An alien who's really into kitsch, which turns out to be humanity's test for galactic citizenship. The story introduces the "bugouts", aliens the author will use again.
  • A Place So Foreign: A coming of age story, in an era of time travel. Set in and near Salt Lake City of the 1890s and 1970s.
  • All Day Sucker: A satisfying riff on the notion that, once you've duplicated the expertise of a real expert, how do you find out what you might have forgotten to capture?
  • To Market, to Market: The Rebranding of Billy Bailey: Coming of age, Madison Avenue style. More would spoil...
  • Return to Pleasure Island: I don't remember earth sprites in the Pinocchio-on-Pleasure-Island story; one such is the protagonist here.
  • Shadow of the Mothaship: A combination of Haight-Asbury hippiedom and Harlan Ellison's Jester of "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman". Return of the bugouts, as are the next two.
  • Home Again, Home Again: The bugouts have a unique method of dealing with insanity, which is both good and bad news for the normal son of an inmate.
  • The Super Man and the Bugout: Super Man's secret identity is a Toronto Jew, he's retired, and he encounters problems with his pension. He also encounters the bugouts, with amusing results.
  • 0wnz0red: I reviewed this story here (and another by this author here), and ranted about one premise of the story here. Hacking humanity...what can I say?

I need to poke around and see what he's done since June.

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