The stories in Jo Walton’s inventive STARLINGS are sudden, pleasant, mysterious, and dangerous
Excitement swirls around Jo Walton’s gorgeous STARLINGS.
At BOING BOING, Cory Doctorow praises the collection.
Stephen King once wrote that “a short story is like a kiss in the dark from a stranger” – that is, sudden, pleasant, mysterious, dangerous and exiting, and the collected short fiction of Jo Walton, contained between covers in the newly published STARLINGS, is exemplary of the principle. Walton, after all, is one of science fiction’s major talents, and despite her protests that she “doesn’t really know how to write stories,” all the evidence is to the contrary.
There’s something classical in Walton’s approach to fiction. These stories, often very short, are the kind of thing you can imagine Judith Merril publishing in an issue of Galaxy or If, a forgotten Frederic Brown or Theodore Sturgeon story that makes you laugh long and hard when you find it in an anthology you pluck from a sun-bleached shelf in a rented beach-cottage on a rainy day.
Her stories have the great, O Henry-ish sting-in-the-tail structure of the kinds of shorts I grew up on, leavened with enormous wit and the kind of profound compassion that made My Real Children such a tear-jerker that I literally couldn’t have it on the desk while I reviewed it, because I’d have dissolved into sobs again.
Tasha Robinson on NPR enjoys the book.
Walton’s right in saying that STARLINGS isn’t really a short-story collection. It’s something better: a written showreel, illustrating yet again that her imagination stretches to the stars (or the starlings), and that she’s endlessly inventive in finding new methods to express it.
For LIGHTSPEED MAGAZINE, LaShawn M. Wanak likes the work.
In her introduction to Starlings, Jo Walton writes, “For ages I felt like a fraud, because my short stories were either extended jokes, poems with the line breaks taken out, experiments with form, or the first chapters of novels.”
Indeed, most of the stories in this collection can easily fall into the above categories. Some feel like half-sketched ideas. Others start off promising, but end just when they start to get interesting. It’s like stumbling onto a writer’s journal.
But in this case, it’s Jo Walton’s journal, and I will still read it, because the ideas in this are gorgeous.
If you love short stories that have well-defined conclusions, this might not be the best collection for you. With that said, Walton’s stories, even in their brief, incomplete forms, are a master class in studying technique, form, and ending stories with zingers such as from her story “Parable Lost”: “There’s everything in the universe in this story; except answers.”
BEST SCIENCE FICTION BOOKS is excited about STARLINGS.
And talking of strange birds … here’s a first short story collection from multi-award winning Jo Walton. Long overdue, I suspect many people will say. It’s a mixture of fantasy and science fiction, magic and machinery. Secrets are uncovered, magic mirrors see everything, and search engines set off down the path to existential despair. As varied, as skilled, as intriguing as her novels, this is a stunning collection of stories, vignettes, poetry and more.
For more info on STARLINGS, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover design by Elizabeth Story