My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This man is a superlative author.
I’m deathly worried about spoiling anything about this short story collection because all I want to do is gush and gush about the transposition of ideas here, the character building there, the truly awesome amount of storytelling SKILLS that he seems to effortlessly embody. He lays out words with such clarity and beauty and beastly knowledge about the SF (and fantasy!) fields, that I’m frankly floored. He’s consistently original, widely exploratory, and best of all, he is consummately entertaining.
I could gush on and on, but what I really, really want to do is discuss his stories. There’s really a ton that I want to say, but spoiling anything at this point would do everyone a disservice, and that’s precisely the opposite of what I want. I want to tell EVERYONE that Michael Swanwick has got to be one of the very best SF authors alive.
Well I can tell you right now, I’m never turning my back on short stories again if this guy is still writing them. I didn’t meet a single story I didn’t absolutely love.
They were all a perfect marriage of classic stories and bleeding edge tech, from godlike continental AIs to the abolishment of time, clever discourse on libertarianism and zero-sum economics in a mirroring tale of humanity and alien bugs, fairy tales and one of the best futuristic con-games I’ve ever had the pleasure of consuming. 🙂 There was even a literary love-story of an American Pushkin that surprised and delighted the hell out of me even as it baffled me, too. 🙂
Some of my absolute favorites, even though I loved them all, were:
The Dala Horse – Great world building, great fairy tale.
Passage of Earth – NICE and twisty invasion story.
The Woman Who Shook the World-Tree – I’m NOT spoiling this one, but trust me. It’s COOL. 🙂
Tawny Pettycoats – I’m a sucker for con games.
Leah Bayer at LIPSTICK & LIBRARIES accidentally fell in love with the collection.
Let’s be real: I read this book because the word cat is in the name. It’s a chronic weakness of mine. Book is about cats? I’m gonna read it. Cat on the cover? Gonna read it. Cat in the title? You know the drill. But while this was a ridiculous impulse read (I barely skimmed the description before picking it up) I fell head-over-heels in love with this collection of stories.
It’s hard to describe the overall feel of this book, because so many different genres and moods are tackled. There’s surreal, futuristic fairy tales. Hard science fiction. More traditional fantasy. Horror. A lot of the inspiration is pulled from folklore or fairy tales, but none of these feel familiar. “The Dala Horse,” for example, has some classic Red Riding Hood traits (along with, I swear, Dora the Explorer–our girl has a talking backpack and map!) but it’s so utterly bizarre and indescribable. “Of Finest Scarlet Was Her Gown,” my favorite from the collection, is about a girl’s deal with the devil while in hell, but it’s like no hell I’ve seen in literature and the deal is so interesting and novel.
For more information on NOT SO MUCH, SAID THE CAT, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover design by Elizabeth Story