October 30, 2010 |
Not a short story, not quite a novella ? wasn't that a Britney Spears song? ? the oxymoronic long short story is an underemployed literary form. (For argument's sake, let's say the long short story ranges from 30 to 60 pages.) F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (1922) is a perfect example of the length's virtues: the story, covering the whole of a character's life, is ample enough to be divided into chapters, yet the execution retains an antic swiftness that lofts the bizarre premise.
November 1, 2009 |
The late Douglas Adams' unstoppably popular 1979 novel, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (HG2G), is about, among other things, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," "one of the most remarkable books ever to come out of the great publishing corporations of Ursa Minor," an idiosyncratic interstellar how-to for those interested in hitching rides on spaceships and generally surviving on 30 Altairian dollars a day. What does it mean when a book about...
January 14, 2011 |
The succinct title of Jon Armstrong's second novel, "Yarn" (Night Shade Books, 309 pp., $14.99), does double duty: It's a yarn about yarn, a tale about textiles in a furiously imagined far future in which the delirious thrills of white-hot couture get their naked-lunch close-up. It's a book for devotees of Lady Gaga and William S. Burroughs alike ? if those groups aren't already secretly one and the same thing. Armstrong embroiders his chronologically scrambled, globe-trotting story with yards of power-pop prose.
December 10, 2010 |
"I am submitting the enclosed short story 'LIFE-LINE' for either 'Astounding' or 'Unknown,'" Robert A. Heinlein wrote to editor John Campbell in 1939, "because I am not sure which policy it fits the better. " The former magazine published science fiction, the latter fantasy. Heinlein's short story ? the first he had attempted professionally, at age 31 ? concerns a machine that can predict when a person will die. That he sold this neophyte production, on first submission, to a top pulp editor (kicking off an intense friendship and correspondence)
April 18, 2010 |
I like it when the full import of a title is felt only at the very end of a story, or in the space just beyond -- think Thomas Pynchon's "The Crying of Lot 49." Laura Kasischke's seventh novel, "In a Perfect World" (Harper Perennial: 310 pp., $13.99 paper), is such a brisk and engaging read that I forgot about its tepid handle till I hit page 207, about two-thirds of the way in. By this point, the deadly and mysterious Phoenix flu has caused a breakdown in American society, if the small Midwestern town of St. Sophia is any indication.
February 21, 2010 |
My heart sinks when I open a new SF or fantasy novel for potential review, only to see the word " Prologue." Though not necessarily long, these scene-setters can be inscrutable, particularly when you realize you're holding Volume 3 in the second of four linked star-faring trilogies. "Ten thousand years have passed since the S'rwrwa annexed the outer colonies of the Confederation," one of these might begin, "enslaving its peoples by means of superior firepower and the Naxx, an antiquated form of mass hypnosis perfected by the rogue wizards known as the Qmzic.