Photo: Scott R. Kline
The best short stories, especially those which deal with wild, wonderful and fantastical themes, often read like poetry. There’s a certain beauty to the way in which they crystallise their subject, draw us into the very essence of the tale, and then leave us wishing that we could spend much more time inside their fragile, beautifully sculptured worlds. Ellen Klages is one of those writers, and this fantastic and diverse collection reveals Klages at the very height of her powers.
In many ways each story is so very different, and Klages doesn’t like to be pinned down by genre. But, in many other ways, they all have something in common – most of Klages protagonists are children (even her adult protagonists don’t seem to have quite abandoned the child inside them) and there is a wonderful innocence-mixed-with-knowingness to her writing, a kind of confidential ‘sitting around the campfire’ kind of storytelling, that not only makes her characters immediately identifiable but also allows her to examine older, more grown up experience through the prism of childhood. There is genuine magic in each one of these stories – even those stories where magic is not an element – and Klages prose is so exquisite that this is the type of book you’ll want to read out loud, just to hear how the words sound on your tongue. Absolutely gorgeous.
Gabino Iglesias gives the collection the Bookshots treatment at LIT REACTOR.
Some are serious and some are funny, some are sad and some are witchy, some are packed full of promise and others drip melancholy. All of them are worth your time, and most of them point to Klages’ sense of wonder, love for language, and great humor. This last element is also on display at the end of the book, where readers are invited to figure out which three facts are lies after reading “10 Facts About Ellen Klages.” While I’m not a fan of sentences like this one, WICKED WONDERS is, and I hate to say it, fantasy for those that don’t like fantasy.
SMITHEREENS enjoys the book.
How does one speak about a short story collection? Of course, some stories will be great and others less so. As they are set in different genres, it’s harder to find a unifying theme without appearing vague and pointless. I will just venture to say that Klages’ main characters are often young girls and that she has a very authentic voice that adds to the charm of the story. There are often a big sense of humor in these stories, and mostly a happy ending, which makes for entertaining, light read. There are ventures into genres that I do not read usually, like fantasy or farce or SF, but most keep us readers grounded with realist details.
But the collection overall reminded me what the power of a good story is: to entertain, to put you in someone else’s shoes and to let your imagination run loose for a little while.
At TOR.COM, Klages contributes FIVE BOOKS ABOUT… Bad Girls Dance Where They Want To.
Growing up, I was not a good girl. Good girls follow the rules, listen to their mothers, don’t make a fuss. They are quiet, polite, proper, and well-behaved. I rarely managed to pull that off. Branded a bad girl, I was sent to my room, grounded, and even—once or twice—threatened with expulsion from my stolid, conservative high school.
For more info on WICKED WONDERS, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover design by Elizabeth Story