Stories edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio

Warning: This may be the most odd review I’ve ever written. I’ve told you that up front. It also may be very long. Let me start by saying this: This is by far the best anthology of short fiction I have ever read. Normally when I read a collection of short stories by various authors, I’ll like at the very most about 60% of the stories. I don’t know why that is, but most of the time, I’m disappointed with short story collections by various authors. If it’s a collection by just one author, that percentage is normally higher. With this collection, I literally enjoyed every story in the collection except for one. And that one story I had a major problem with and it has truly thrown a whole wrench into the collection as a whole for me. That’s why this review may be a little long.

First of all, let me talk about the collection a little bit. Overall, it’s brilliantly put together by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio. It brings together an amazing list of authors, some of today’s most well known names in literature alongside a few names that I was not so aware of to present some truly fantastic stories that kept me engaged many nights well into the night. The stories nearly all delve into the realm of some aspect of fantasy, magical realism, science fiction or folklore without even making the reader aware that they are reading any particular “genre”. Which is what I love.

So many people these days say “oh, I don’t like fantasy, I don’t read that.” Or, “ew…sci-fi? Not for me…” Well read this please! Because it shows you that there’s something out there for everyone! In this collection, Jodi Picoult writes a bit of magical realism as a family mourns the loss of their child. Neil Gaiman takes us on a bit of a short high fantasy tale as two men go on a journey to a misty mountain. Diana Wynne Jones gives a futuristic retelling of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Gene Wolfe gives us a gorgeous tale of three people exploring alien life unknown. And Jonathan Carroll spins perhaps the most haunting tale of all of them of secrets and curses. There is literally something here for everyone. Perhaps everything is here for everyone.

But there was one thing here which was not for me, and that’s where my problem lies. Neil Gaiman writes in the introduction that when compiling this collection they wanted stories that begged the reader to ask “And then what happened?” Those four words. For that’s what makes good story telling…that we want more! I couldn’t agree more. There was one story in here that repulsed me so much though that I wondered what the hell it was doing in this collection. And that was Lawrence Block’s “Catch and Release.” It’s about a serial killer rapist who calls himself a “catch and release fisherman” who picks up strangers and tortures them, rapes them, kills them and then buries them and leaves. He picks up one girl…tells her she needs to be careful and drops her off. We then follow him as he describes his need to kill, stalks a girl at a supermarket, knocks her out, rapes her, kills her, feels regret for a second and then dismisses the regret and feels fine with himself, the end.

WHY??? What is the point of stories like this??? Who wants to read stuff like this? This idiot can write stuff like this if he wants but why is it in this collection that is otherwise so good? Unless I’m totally missing something in the story. Unless there’s some deep message that I missed. But try as I may, it appears to me to just be a serial rapist story that is meant to be “entertaining”. :/ Yes, I understand that this collection was not published to suit MY tastes. That this wasn’t published specifically for me. But but but…I really just don’t get it!! There’s no redemption..there’s no resolve…there’s no lesson learned..there’s no justice for the heinous acts committed…It’s horrific yes, just because it’s a fucking horrible story, but it’s not a horror story. It’s not any kind of fantasy or magical realism or anything like that, so why is it in here? It just didn’t go with the rest of this collection. It doesn’t belong in any collection in my opinion except for world’s worst rape fic. Or worlds best example of men who should be castrated.

When I read this story, I did not wonder “And then what happened” the only four words that came to my mind were “who the fuck cares?” And that’s where my disappointment lies in this collection and that’s my frustration. So it’s been hard for me to wrap my head around this collection! All because of this one story!! I just want to rip it out of the book really because it feels wrong in there. Here’s my recommendation though. Don’t let it stop you from picking up Stories. There are WAY too many INCREDIBLE stories in here that are not too be missed.

Seriously, from the very first vampire story by Roddy Doyle (trust me, you haven’t heard every take on vampires) to the very last story that’s presented in such a unique fashion by Joe Hill, you have such incredible stuff awaiting for you. I literally loved everything (except for that piece of crap by Lawrence Block) in this book, and that’s something that I’ve never been able to say about a short story anthology before. I hope that one day there’s a Stories II. I’d be one happy camper indeed if that were to happen. I can’t imagine it topping this one, but I would absolutely love to see Neil and Al try!

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17 Responses

  1. I simply can’t wait to get my hands on this book!!! But yeah, I think I will just save myself the anguish of reading the Block story…sounds like I would just end up sick to my stomach. That really is puzzling though, isn’t it? I wonder what their motivation was for including it, when it sounds so out of character for the collection they were trying to put together. Anyway, I’m so sorry that it was in there, and thus took away from the feeling of perfection this book otherwise might have held for you. 😦

  2. That one story sounds awful, Chris. Ugh. I don’t know that I’ll pick up this book any time soon since I’m simply not a fan of short story collections, but if I do, I’ll make sure to avoid that one!

  3. This sounds like an amazing collection and I’m looking forward to reading it for sure. (Plus, I love that cove; it is too adorable). As for the one story that you had a problem with, I’m curious, the girl he let go, was that the one he stalked? If not, do you think that the author was attempting to do a foil between the girl he let go (and why he let her go) compared to the ones he killed? Just speculating since I haven’t read it, of course. πŸ™‚

  4. My library just bought this, so I am looking forward to reading it. I am first on the list for it. πŸ™‚

  5. OH NO! Another book to put on my TBR list!
    Seriously, every time I look at that cover I start giggling. I love that cover.

    Re the Lawrence Block story: I had this same reaction when I attempted to read American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. I.Could.Not.Finish.It. I have a fairly high tolerance for “stuff I don’t like” in my reading, but Ellis gets the prize for making me actually return a book to the store for my money back. I have never returned a book to the store. Ever. Except for his. If there was anything redeeming about that book, I didn’t get to it since I was so repulsed.

  6. Yep, that would bug the hell out of me, too. Isn’t it sad when one part sticks the craw so unavoidably? Let’s pretend this story never happened.

    And I’ll get the book and read around it.

  7. Must remember to pick this one up, pretty sure I just saw it come in at work today.

  8. Oh, weird. The rest of the book sounds so good, but I don’t think I’d buy it if even one story is that upsetting.

  9. Except . . . I love Roddy Doyle. And, Joe Hill is all kinds of awesome at short stories (haven’t read his novels). And, and . . . argh!

  10. Oh, I so want to read this! I may have to take my gift card out over the weekend!

  11. Sorry to totally hog your comment section, but I just passed by my shelves a bit ago and had a flash of brilliance. Are you familiar with Jack Finney, the author of Invasion of the Body Snatchers? I ask because he has a short story collection that I think is so awesome I can’t believe I didn’t think about it, but if you’ve read Joe Hill’s 20th Century Ghosts, the story about the unconnected telephone that rang was an homage to Jack Finney. Which goes to show that I’m not the only person on the planet who is in awe of his writing, thank goodness. I think the short story collection I love is called About Time and my absolute favorite story is “The Woodrow Wilson Dime”. If you can find a copy, it’s worth it just for that story alone, but I loved the whole book and I think you would, too.

  12. Debi, Yep, I’d definitely suggest getting this one! It’s just an awesome collection, but I would also HIGHLY suggest just skipping over the Block story. Please just save yourself the misery of it :/ I’m sorry it was in there too…I don’t know what the motivation was for putting it in there. I really don’t.

    Amanda, It WAS awful!! So awful! I’m not a big fan of short story collections either. Really not. Honestly, If Gaiman’s name wouldn’t have been attached to this, I probably wouldn’t have gotten it. But being the completist that I am, I had to get it :p And I honestly am thrilled that I did. I truly loved everything else in it!

    Christina, The cover is great!! I love it too…I think you’ll really enjoy it. Unfortunately, the character in the story the girl that he lets go is a totally different girl at the beginning of the story…then he goes home after he lets that girl go and gets cravings to kill and rape so he goes and finds this other girl and gives in to the cravings and the end :/ Yeah…

    Kailana, Yay!! Glad you’re first on the list πŸ˜€ You’re really going to like this one I think!!! You have to tell me what your favorite stories are after you read this one!! I’m dying to hear someone else talk about this book.

    Terri, Mwuhahahhahahaha, I always feel better when someone else is adding to their list as much as I am :p I totally love that cover too!! I haven’t read American Psycho, but I can imagine your feelings on it. I have no desire to read it, honestly. I really liked Ellis’ Less Than Zero, but don’t think I’d like that one. I saw about 1/4 of the movie and then just stopped. I know the basic plot of it. Doesn’t do anything at all for me.

    Andi, I’m trying to just pretend that story never happened :p That’s what bugs me so much!! I would’ve totally given this an A+ 100 without that one story. seriously, it’s a perfect collection without it. Anyway, like I told Kelly, you have to tell me after you read this because I’m dying to know what other people’s favorite stories are!! I loved it so much!

    Fence, Hey!! How are you? πŸ™‚ Can’t wait to see what you think of this one! It’s a really awesome book!!

    Nancy, Seriously my dear! You can hog my comments all you want!! The more you talk my ear off, the better as far as I’m concerned πŸ™‚ Here’s the deal…I think you would TOTALLY love this book Nancy. Like…you would love EVERY story in this book aside from that horrible Block story. So I say that you get this book when you can, then flip to the Block story and do the unthinkable and rip it out of the book :O You can even give it to Fiona to play with after πŸ˜€ Oh the Roddy Doyle story is so much fun!!! Just think if your husband suddenly woke up craving blood and snuck behind your back sucking on raw steaks out of the fridge :p That’s what it’s about. And I’m totally with you on Joe Hill. I love his short stories too! Just added the Finney collection to my PBS wishlist!! Sounds fantastic! I read something by him a looooooong time ago…I think it was a short story in my college sci-fi class, but I don’t remember what it was. I’ll definitely keep my eyes open for more though πŸ™‚ Thanks for the rec!! Oh, and guess what I just got over on Paperback Swap? A Mango Shaped Space! So you’ll have a point coming to you soon πŸ™‚

    Gavin, Like I told everyone else, you must let me know when you read this one!! It’s so good and I’m dying to know which stories will be your favs πŸ™‚

  13. Thanks for that post! Now of course I want to see the Block story for myself to see if I agree with you. But it sounds awful. The other stories sound amazing!

  14. Anjali, Hey! I was just thinking about you the other day πŸ™‚ I was rearranging my bookshelves and came across your books and thinking I really need to read them! Maybe a second opinion would help with the Block story, but I just couldn’t find anything redemptive in it, try as I may 😦 But yes! the other stories were SO good!!

  15. But, if I tore a story out of a book, I’d be a BOOK TORTURER!!! I could never live with myself. Well, maybe I could. I’ll consider. πŸ˜‰ I hope you get that Jack Finney book very, very soon because I think you will love him. I want you to love him. And, yay! A Mango-Shaped Space is so good! And, I will get a blame point!! I love getting blame points!!

  16. I’m SO glad I read your review Chris. I’m pretty high up on my library’s hold list for this one, and now I know to just skip that stupid story. If it wasn’t a library copy, I would totally just cut out the pages and white out it in the table of contents. πŸ˜‰

  17. […] next part, though, is specifically about 1001 Nights. Chris recently reviewed Stories ed. by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio, saying that the whole collection was marvelous except for one WTF?! story. I have a similar […]

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