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Collected Stories
Lewis Shiner
Subterranean Press, 496 pages

Collected Stories
Lewis Shiner
Lewis Shiner was born in 1950 Eugene, Oregon. He has written about music for Crawdaddy!, the Village Voice, Reflex, Pulse, and others. His novels include Slam, Deserted Cities of the Heart, Frontera, and the award-winning Glimpses. He lives in North Carolina.

Lewis Shiner Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

'Huge white letters filled the screen.
ELVIS, they said.
He Fired. The roar of the gun seemed to make the entire building jump.
The picture tube blew in with a sharp crack and a shower of glass.'
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Short story collections can be such good value for money, providing of course the contents are up to scratch. The first few works in this set had me thinking the book was going to be one of the best of its type, delivering absolutely spellbinding visions spanning a rich diversity of subjects. Collected Stories is quite a large collection, and has its share of ups and downs, but the ups have the numbers to make it a worthy addition to anyone's home library. For those interested in the whys and wherefores of writing, the author has included detailed, often insightful notes for each inclusion, which have been collected at the end of the book. The reason for that is because some can't help but give away vital plot twists, and therefore could not be included as prefaces.

Among the gems on offer are; "Perfidia," a highly plausible take on what really became of Glenn Miller, "Stuff of Dreams" which blurs the lines between dreamer and dream, "Nine Hard Questions About The Nature Of The Universe" where we find out what really happens to alien abductees, "White City" a brief glimpse into the fascinating mind of Nicola Tesla, "Twilight Time" a tale of travel to alternate realities, and my favourite here, "Oz" that does more to fire the sparks of the mind in its single page, than many short story writers can manage in twenty times that length. There is a price to pay for these glittering prizes.

Lewis Shiner has padded out the middle of the book with a range of non-SF stories which, for me, bordered on the dull. Most, like the Western sequence of "The Long Ride Out" are competently written, workman-like efforts, which pass the time pleasantly enough. But others are so subtle that I found it hard to sustain interest. I like things to happen in stories, and stuff that is simply about people being people doesn't really light my candle. Especially when it is in the company of works that are so much smarter, and stretch the imagination wide open. Almost as if to reward readers that have ploughed through the chaff, the author dabbles with SF tinged rock 'n' roll in "Jeff Beck," the laconic tale of a magic wish that doesn't work out, and the non-SF but very readable "Sticks," an interlude in the life of a struggling session musician. For the SF reader,things pick up again with "Snowbirds," which concerns a plot from a devastated future, "Mystery Train," a quirky, charming glimpse into the reasons why Elvis Presley took to shooting out TV screens, and the last story in the book, "Lizard Men Of Los Angeles." This, we learn from the author's notes, is Shiner's personal favourite, and presents a stylish tribute to the age of pulp fiction, complete with a cameo appearance by the infamous black magician Aleister Crowley.

My only real disappointment here was that there was nothing connected to Shiner's work on the Wild Cards novels, edited by George R.R. Martin. That was where I first read and admired his work, and I feel that I will not be alone in missing something extra from that period, where Shiner excelled. That said, I can recommend this collection as a terrific introduction to Shiner's literary styling and the broad sweep of his imagination. For someone who claims not to be an SF writer, he does a top quality job whenever he dares to let himself dream.

Copyright © 2010 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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