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Super Stories of Heroes & Villains
edited by Claude Lalumière
Tachyon, 414 pages

Super Stories of Heroes & Villains
Claude Lalumière
Claude Lalumière founded Nebula in 1989, a Montreal bookshop devoted to "the fantastic, the imaginative, and the weird," which he managed through most of the 1990s. He writes a weekly Fantastic Fiction column for the Montreal Gazette. As an anthologist his books include Telling Stories: New English Fiction from Québec, Open Space: New Canadian Fantastic Fiction, and Witpunk. His fiction has appeared in magazines and anthologies in North America, in the UK, and on the Web. His story "The Ethical Treatment of Meat" was shortlisted for the Origins Awards.

Claude Lalumière Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Door to Lost Pages
SF Site Review: Island Dreams: Montreal Writers of the Fantastic
SF Site Review: Open Space
SF Site Review: Witpunk
SF Site Review: Witpunk

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

'Across the table, he could feel Kessler's strength. He remembered the old uniform, so familiar in the thirties. The light brown body-stocking, with black trunks, boots and cloak. A black swastika in the red circle on the chest. He'd grinned down from a hundred propaganda posters like an Aryan demi-god, strode through the walkways of Metropolis as Siegfried reborn with x-Ray eyes.'
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As the title implies, this collection presents the work of many authors. All are directly or indirectly connected to the worlds of comics, pulp fiction and larger than life heroes or villains. There are twenty-eight stories in total, some of which are interconnected, with the majority being stand-alone pieces. Well known authors abound, including Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden, Kim Newman, Gene Wolfe, Tim Pratt, and George R.R. Martin. Eschewing any attempt to present a cohesive theme, the editor instead selects a wide spectrum of styles and themes. Not quite something for everyone, but covering enough imaginary territory to offer most readers a little of what they fancy, unless it's ultra realism or works from the more visceral end of the genre. Not that the stories here shy away from blood and guts, politics or sexual references, just don't expect anything too hardcore.

In keeping with the broad church of the genre, the works of the authors at play here range from straightforward super-heroic themes, albeit with a twist, to concepts that are super-heroic only in essence. Perhaps surprisingly it is more often the latter that succeed best, concentrating on the men -- and women -- behind the masks. Among the classier stories is "Ubermensch!" from Kim Newman, which features of an alternate Superman scenario where the alien man-god who grew up in Nazi Germany becomes the sole occupant of Spandau Prison. "The Rememberer" by J. Robert Lennon, tells the tale of a woman both blessed and cursed with a super eidetic memory. It does a fine job of showing the reader just what a burden that would be. "Bluebeard and the White Buffalo" by Tim Pratt is a stand-alone story featuring his steampunk alternate Wild West heroine Rangergirl. It cleverly reimagines a West that invokes the supernatural side of life where the buffalo used to roam. "The Biggest" from James Patrick Kelly, is the personal story of a dirt-poor former petty criminal, with the ability to grow in a similar manner to Goliath/Giant Man, whom older readers may remember from the Avengers. Attempting to become a superhero in the big city leads both to his redemption and unforeseen consequences. "Prologue and Interludes" by George R.R. Martin, is one of two reprints here originally published in the Wild Cards series. As an introduction to that extensive counter factual world, Martin's contribution is perhaps the most accomplished and believable inclusion. "The Zeppelin Pulps" from Jess Nevins, is one of two works that are actually about stories as opposed to being fiction themselves, the other being "Tarzan Alive" by Philip José Farmer, channeled through Win Scott Eckert. Both pieces do an excellent job of profiling and explaining the rise and fall of best-selling genres, which in their day were every bit as popular as the greatest superhero fiction of the present.

As a collection, Super Stories of Heroes & Villains was a mixed bag. Doing pretty much what it says on the tin, the characters and themes are all super, in the sense of being extraordinary, but aren't necessarily about super-powers. Some works stood head and shoulders above others, both in terms of imagination and execution. An appraisal that is, to some extent, admittedly down to personal preference. Few readers will like everything here, but the same could be said of a row of titles in any comic book store. Happily, the collection includes enough standout works which fly like Superman, some without even leaving the ground. For that reason I can recommend this book to fellow readers of text based super-heroics.

Copyright © 2014 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at www.inkdigital.org.


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