The delightful STARLINGS is a great introduction to Jo Walton’s writing

More interest in Jo Walton’s imaginative STARLINGS.

For GEEK DAD, Robin Brooks shares 5 Reasons to Read STARLINGS.

I’m a huge Jo Walton fan. Her novel Among Others is one of my all-time favorites. Walton is a wizard with words and a writer whose work takes in a wide range of styles and genres. Nowhere is this more evident than her latest book, Starlings; a collection short fiction, poetry, and a play. Whilst it never reaches the heady heights of Among Others, (nor another one of her greats Her Real Children, reviewed here) Starlings is an entertaining and thoroughly readable assembly.

Here then are 5 reasons why you should read it. My first 3 are slightly cheating as they refer directly to stories in the book.

1: The Panda Coin.

A story reminiscent of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, The Panda Coin follows the path of a coin through a cityscape of the future. We see lives intersect as the coin passes through different hands, but is this a random meander through the city or are their other forces at work? The Panda Coin is a great little short story.

2: The Sleeper.

The Sleeper contains two neat ideas in just a few pages. Set in a future world, where historical figures are stored as AIs, that can be interrogated for posterity. In this story, a researcher is writing a biography of a semi-famous television director, who it turns out was a “sleeper” spy at Cambridge University. A contemporary of Burgess and Philby, the character in the book managed to remain undetected and ultimately outlived the Soviet Union. The book takes an interesting twist when we discover the researcher’s motives go beyond the need to write about one of history’s footnotes. The entire story is deeply satisfying, subversive, and artfully executed.

5: Variety of Texts.

STARLINGS is little more than 200 pages long, yet is filled with a great variety of works. Not only does it take in many aspects of genre – sci-fi, fantasy, and speculative fiction to name but three, there is also a fabulous short play in here (that, once again, is delightfully subversive). After the play, there is also some poetry. I have to be honest, I’m one of those Philistines who finds it difficult to access poetry, but Walton’s is very engaging.

I’m not always a huge lover of short story collections, by STARLINGS has a huge amount to recommend it. There is something comfortingly cozy about Walton’s writing, whilst at the same time, it remains sharp, focused, and fresh. She’s one of those authors who makes writing seem like its easy. The reality, of course, is far different


If you’ve not read any Jo Walton, then I do thoroughly recommend you do. Starlings is a pretty good place to start. It’s a great introduction to her writing. Do also check out Among Others, you won’t regret it.

Joel Cunningham at B&N SCI-FI & FANTASY BLOG includes the collection among This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books.

She offers up short stories, poetry, and plays that explore many of her favorite themes in new and interesting ways. From a tale that follows a gold coin as it changes hands on a space station to a story about a phone app that allows you to share in a loved one’s pain and loss, Walton’s lively imagination is the main selling point, as she deluges readers with ideas. Other standouts include a story about a biographer interviewing a simulation of a 20th century subject, three brief vignettes set at a weary inn, and, oh, the poems, which are wonderful whether or not you consider yourself a fan of the form.


What I liked: The mix of genres and formats made for different reading experience that I really enjoyed. There was a story that really tugged at my heart as a parent and daughter. I can’t go into detail but if you are a parent it will get you too.  The poems where a pleasure to read; Godzilla poems how can you not love that. It was an intelligent and fun read. Walton’s writing style was a delight to read.

What I didn’t like: There wasn’t anything that I didn’t like about the book. It ticked all boxes for me.

Star Rating: 5

My thoughts: I have lots of thoughts about Starlings the genre mix between sci-if and fantasy was brilliant and well executed. The play didn’t really work for me written out as a play per see but the story behind the play was really good so I can’t fault Walton on that. I’ve only see that done in one other book that I have read lately. The cover art is beautiful and I enjoyed the prologue by Walton.

Kirstie Ellen at UPSIDE-DOWN BOOKS is looking forward to STARLINGS.

This is actually a bunch of short stories that straddle the genres of fantasy and sci-fi – but for the sake of not losing sleep over categorisation, here we are in the fantasy section. Walton is an AMAZING author and I’m so excited about this one.

For more info on STARLINGS, visit the Tachyon page.

Cover design by Elizabeth Story