The adventurous Jo Walton’s STARLINGS is incredible
More reviews and
even some cake for Jo Walton’s entertaining STARLINGS.
Via TWITTER, Walton shared:
Book Launch for STARLINGS at LTUE went wonderfully, with an excellent book cake!
Amal El-Mohtar in THE NEW YORK TIMES praises the collection.
“Starlings” collects a range of works written between 2000 and 2017, prefaced with an introduction that lays out Walton’s relationship to short fiction. “For the longest time,” she says, “I didn’t know how to write short stories … I went on to write, and sell, a couple … that is, specifically, two. You’ll find them toward the end of this book. I continue to think of myself as a novelist and a poet and not really a short fiction writer at all.”
An odd start — but what emerges from the collection is not Jo Walton, writer, but Jo Walton, conversationalist. The whole volume is an entertaining discussion with its author that equals, if not exceeds, the fiction and poetry and drama in the book.
NOVEL OBSERVATIONS enjoys the book.
I have always taken the maxim ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ very seriously, but sometimes I can’t help being drawn to a book by its appearance. Starlings by Jo Walton is no exception to this. The cover design is striking and beautiful; realistic depictions of the attractive birds, framed by bold splashes of colour (check out the real cover, my Kindle doesn’t do it justice). After seeing this cover design, how could I not be excited to read on?
STARLINGS is a collection of short stories, poems and a play, offering an insight into author Jo Walton’s style over a lifetime of writing. In the introduction, Walton explains that the short story is a style she has little experience with, as her favour and expertise lies in novel writing. Walton muses on the difference between the two prose forms, expressing her lack of confidence in her own ability when it comes to writing shorter fiction. The introduction alone is fascinating and insightful, as Walton discusses the writing process, the necessity of an ending and why it is important that all writers are different.
Alongside short stories, poems and a play, the collection comprises fragments of other writings, including the opening chapters of novels. Walton is an adventurous writer, playing with ideas and experimenting with her style, riffing on familiar themes to produce unique fictional creations. She is a formidable writer of sci-fi and fantasy, author of an array of novels, essays and poems. Welsh-born and living in Canada, it is clear throughout the collection that a sense of place and identity is important to Walton. Numerous concepts and themes are portrayed, the futuristic settings addressing contemporary issues such as climate change, loneliness and the advancement of technology, proving that Walton is a highly skilled writer. She does not shy away from difficult topics; rather she addresses them using her fearless style, projecting them onto a time and place that is both strange and distant, and eerily familiar
STARLINGS is an experimental collection containing several fictional gems. Walton is a talented author who is not afraid to branch out into uncharted territory with her writing. Some of the stories did feel a little off balance, as though the germ of an idea had been tested out but had not quite developed, but Walton was clear in the introduction that the collection is by no means a set of polished offerings. Walton’s honesty and bold confidence gives this collection its edge; her voice and passion is clear throughout and many of the themes and ideas she weaves into her stories are thought-provoking and resonant. A strong collection from a giant of fiction.
Jennifer Muirhead at WEEKEND NOTE likes the stories.
STARLINGS is a collection of speculative fiction short stories and poetry by Jo Walton, author of the novels Among Others and My Real Children. In the introduction, the author says that despite having won multiple prestigious awards for her novels she felt it took her a long time to get the hang of writing short stories. As she warns, some of the short stories in this book are actually extended jokes, poetry with the line breaks taken out, or the first chapter of a novel that didn’t get finished. However, I think she is selling herself short a bit since a couple of the stories in this book are incredible. Even the ones that aren’t really stories are pretty interesting, and the poetry is beautiful and evocative.
For more info on STARLINGS, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover design by Elizabeth Story