|Art by Kerem Beyit|
I have Tad's four-volume Otherland series in my library, but except for the Otherland novella, "The Happiest Dead Boy in the World" (included in Legends II: New Short Novels by the Masters of Modern Fantasy, edited by Robert Silverberg, Tor Books, 2003), I've not read any of the author's other short fiction --
Until now. And my excuse for not having read any of Tad Williams's other short stories? Well, can I plead insanity? As I must have been insane to have overlooked some of these stories.
I was pleased to see that this collection contained the more recent Otherland story, "The Boy Detective of Oz" (originally published in Oz Reimagined: New Tales from the Emerald City and Beyond, edited by John Joseph Adams and Douglas Cohen, 47North, 2013), which I hadn't previously read -- so now my Otherland series is complete.
My favorite story, by far, in the collection is "The Stuff that Dreams Are Made Of" -- a story of stage magicians, a locked-door mystery, and a missing book of memoirs. This novelette is pure gold, written in the style of the noir detective story, with just the right touch of sardonic wit provided by the occasionally drunk protagonist, one Dalton Pinnard -- also known as "Pinardo the Magnificent." And, of course, we have Pinnard's receptionist Tilly, and the requisite damsel, Ms. Emily Heltenbocker.
Second favorite would have to be another novelette, "And Ministers of Grace" (originally published in Warriors, edited by Gardner Dozois and George R. R. Martin, Tor Books, 2010). A heady tale of two religious factions: the Rationalists of Archimedes and the Abramites of Covenant. An assasin's beliefs are so ingrained that he completely closes off the ability to even listen to, let alone consider, the beliefs of others.
Here's the table of contents:
The Old Scale Game
The Storm Door
The Stranger's Hands
Child of an Ancient City
The Boy Detective of Oz
Three Duets for Virgin and Nosehorn
Diary of a Dragon
Not with a Whimper, Either
Some Thoughts Re: Dark Destroyer
Z is for...
Monsieur Vergalant's Canard
The Stuff that Dreams Are Made Of
A Fish Between Three Friends
Every Fuzzy Beast of the Earth, Every Pink Fowl of the Air
A Stark and Wormy Knight
And Ministers of Grace
Omnitron, What Ho!
The last story, "Omnitron, What Ho!" is original to this collection. It's the tale of Werner Von Secondstage Booster, his Aunt Jabbatha, and how "Wernie" first met his robot servant Omnitron. As I read this story, I pictured Jeeves and Wooster....only instead of Jeeves rescuing Wooster from one of his typical hijinks, Omnitron saves Wernie from a more deadly romantic liaison.
And the longest story in the collection, "Black Sunshine," which clocks in at nearly 28,000 words, is written as a screenplay. Five friends, Brent, Eric, Janice, Kimmy, and Topher, party down on the last Saturday night of the summer, before school begins. Then, twenty-five years later, on the last Saturday night before school begins, they all meet once again, and slowly begin to realize exactly what happened that night, twenty-five years ago -- except that it is happening right now.