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This collection is different from almost every other genre anthology you will ever read. You will find none of the usual plots -- in some stories, you will be very hard-pressed to even identify a plot -- and almost none of the beloved characters. And even if the big bad wolf does make an appearance, he does so for completely different reasons than you might expect.
This quirkiness, a slight sense of things being skewed, is the single thing that ties all the stories and poetry together. Fantastic occurrences often taking place in a slightly twisted version of our own world with some elements of the absurd or the surreal tossed in for good measure. If Kafka was alive today, he'd definitely approve of what he saw here.
This is not a book which will fall into most readers' comfort zones. The stories, poetry and even the movie reviews attempt to make you think, as opposed to giving you an open and shut storyline. You will not be satisfied with the endings of these stories. And you are not meant to be. You are meant to challenge your assumptions.
Another thing that impressed me about the book, and something which seems to come from the magazine itself, is the fact that the editors and publishers don't take themselves too seriously (even though the collection if from Del Rey, a very serious and professional house). Many of the author bios are quirky or even laugh-out-loud funny, and the intro tells you that these aren't your typical stuck-up literati (I mean, two completely conflicting drink mixing instructions and philosophy?).
The book does what it sets out to do very well.
So why three stars and not five? Simply stated, I can't shake the feeling that the whole subgenre it's exploring (Slipstream? New Weird? Some new name I don't want to know about?) is the answer to a question no one asked. Do we really need a surreal, hyper-literary fantasy subgenre? I don't have the answer to that question, but if you think we do, then you will love this book.
I found myself feeling a little disappointed with the stories. This wasn't an intellectual reaction (the stories were invariably well-written), but an emotional one. Even those stories with a traditional plot structure left me feeling a bit uninvolved, perhaps because the characters were hard to bond with, perhaps because the surreal intruded a little too much. The exception, and my favorite story in the book was "Bright Waters" by John Brown.
So, if you're a stodgy traditionalist like me, steer clear of this one. But if you like having your genre assumptions challenged and your comfort zones invaded (but not too aggressively) by people who write really well, give it a try. You won't be disappointed.
Click here to buy The Best of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, edited by Kelly Link on Amazon
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