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The Solaris Book of New Fantasy
edited by George Mann
Solaris Books, 510 pages

The Solaris Book of New Fantasy
George Mann
George Mann is the Consultant Editor of Solaris and the author of The Mammoth Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction, The Human Abstract and Time Hunter: The Severed Man. He lives and works in Nottinghamshire, England.

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A review by Rich Horton

As a lover of short SF and Fantasy, something I've missed over the past several years has been a regular series of unthemed original anthologies, in the mode of Frederik Pohl's pioneering Star, Damon Knight's Orbit, Terry Carr's Universe, Robert Silverberg's New Dimensions, and most recently, Patrick Nielsen Hayden's all too short-lived Starlight. So I am delighted to see in 2007 the beginnings (we hope) of no fewer than four such series: Jonathan Strahan's Eclipse, Lou Anders's Fast Forward, and two separate books from Solaris, edited by George Mann: The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, and The Solaris Book of New Fantasy, which I have at hand.

That's the good news. The letdown, at least in the case of this book, is that it is somewhat disappointing. For one thing, I thought several stories did not work independent of their various series novels. In the case of Hal Duncan's "The Prince of End Times", related to his novels Vellum and Ink, at least the reader can fall back on Duncan's quite remarkable prosodic inventiveness, but the story as a story didn't mean anything to me. Janny Wurts's "Reins of Destiny" is weaker still -- nothing that happens (and not much in the way of a resolved story does happen) means anything at all to someone who hasn't read the series of which it is a part. Much better is Juliet McKenna's "The Wizard's Coming," which seems probably to feature characters who have appeared in other stories, but which is a complete story, and a good one, on its own: about a small country threatened by raiders who hire a wizard for protection. Likewise, T.A. Pratt's "Grander than the Sea" is a good story set in the world of his novel Blood Engines, but you needn't have read the novel to follow this tale of Marla Mason dealing with an insane sorcerer who is about to try to raise a dark god from the sea.

I called the book disappointing, but that is relative to my hopes, perhaps. There aren't really any knockout stories here, and there are a couple quite weak stories, but there are plenty of entertaining ones. Mark Chadbourn's "Who Slays the Gyant, Wounds the Beast" is set in an alternate fantastical Elizabethan England, an England at war with Faerie, and spy Will Swyfte has been dispatched to Warwickshire to deal with a problem caused by Edmund Spenser and his love affair with a denizen of Faerie. Nice stuff. Chris Roberson's "And Such Small Deer" sends Abraham van Helsing to the East Indies where he encounters a strange man with the initials F.A.M. (another well-known fictional character -- but I'll leave the secret for readers of the story to suss out) and some terrible mutilations among the native staff. The protagonist of Jay Lake's "A Man Falls" is the son of an influential man in a society living underground, but he gets in a lot of trouble when he foolishly ventures to the surface, and encounters another society of humans -- and huge birds. Jeff VanderMeer's "King Tales" consists of three short "fairy tales" of sorts -- but quite matter of factly different tales. Intelligent and amusing at once. And perhaps the best piece is "Lt. Privet's Love Song", by Scott Thomas, in which a sailor spending some time in a coastal city while his ship undergoes repairs gets in some trouble when a love potion he intended for a pretty barmaid ends up in another man's wife's drink instead. At the same time his kingdom is undergoing a succession crisis, as the old king is dying, and his two twin sons are about to take over. Things work out rather intricately, and pleasantly -- it's a fun and somewhat refreshing work.

This is a thick book, and there is plenty of variety here. I have suggested I was disappointed -- and as I said, I was, relative to expectations. But I worry I'm being unfair -- this may not be as good a book as I hoped for, but there is a lot to like here, and certainly it offers good value for money.

Copyright © 2008 Rich Horton

Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at

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