A passel of new reviews for Ellen Klages’ fascinating and illuminating WICKED WONDERS.
Photo: Scott R. Kline
Tadiana Jones pens the third review of the collection for FANTASY LITERATURE.
In WICKED WONDERS (2017), Ellen Klages has assembled an impressive collection of her short stories. Although almost all of these stories have been previously published (the sole exception is “Woodsmoke”), most of them appeared in anthologies and are unlikely to be familiar to most readers. These fourteen stories run the gamut from non-fiction (“The Scary Ham”) to straight fiction (“Hey, Presto,” “Household Management” and “Woodsmoke”) to science fiction and fantasy. They’re often bittersweet or wistful and frequently surreal; tales of ordinary lives in which the fantastical or unexpected element sneaks up and taps you on the shoulder, and when you turn around the world has shifted.
Several tales in WICKED WONDERS are reminiscent of certain of Ray Bradbury’s short stories, in which conventional American suburban life takes a sharp turn toward the fanciful. Even the non-speculative stories have a chimerical feel to them. Many of the stories look at the world through the eyes of a child or teenage girl, in a sympathetic but clear-eyed manner. Klages’ young characters are girls trying to find their place in life, often misfits, and bravely dealing with burdens that life has passed out to them.
There are also several pages of story notes, in which she explains some of the inspirations and ideas behind each of the stories in this collection. The insights here are fascinating and illuminating, as are Klages’ tales themselves. They’re well worth reading.
For MOTHER DAUGHTER BOOK CLUB, Cindy Hudson praises the book.
Klages writes fearlessly about adults and children facing pivotal moments, such as leaving home, losing loved ones, reacting to dangerous situations, and discovering things about their own sexuality. A few of the stories are humorous, others are creepy. All will leave readers pondering the situations and possibly contemplating how they would react in similar circumstances.
Rebecca Thorne at SFCROWSNEST enjoys the volume.
Ellen Klages has a talent for concepts. There are quite a lot of stories in this collection and, while there are similar themes running through many of them, I was amazed by how many stories have a really clever magical concept behind them. For example, one story, ‘Friday Night At St. Cecilia’s’, that stood out to me was a tale wherein the characters were transported in to life-sized board games that were conceptually very impressive. There was another, ‘Presto!’, which was essentially about the science of the art of illusion, which was quite fascinated. Klages is obviously either a very clever lady or a good researcher as these stories are brimming with careful details and facts.
Throughout the book, one of the key themes was isolation and alienation and the distance between members of families. This was shown in all sorts of different scenarios, which I thought was quite interesting. I think an unfortunate part of the development of modern western culture is that families and communities are not as close as they once were. Klages explores this from a variety of different angles across a range of her short stories. Interestingly, this is most commonly done through the way the children who are the viewpoint characters for many of the stories view their parents. What’s interesting about this is this is certainly not a book for young children. It may possibly be a book for teens and young adults, but certainly not children. Some of the children in this book are below the age of seven, which is certainly not an age at which I think children would be reading this sort of book. This is very much a book about looking back on the hardships of childhood and perhaps about encouraging adults to remember the thoughts and feelings of the children in their lives. I can’t say I’ve read a book from this perspective before so I must say it was very refreshing.
Overall, it was an enjoyably quirky read that I would recommend to anyone who likes short stories, well-crafted writing, magical realism and stories based around characters who have an interest in science.
On YOU TUBE, the Fancy Hat Lady reviews WICKED WONDERS.
For more info on WICKED WONDERS, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover design by Elizabeth Story