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The Alchemist
Paolo Bacigalupi
Subterranean Press, 96 pages

Paolo Bacigalupi
Paolo Bacigalupi's writing has appeared in High Country News, Salon.com, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. It has been anthologized in various "Year's Best" collections of short science fiction and fantasy, been nominated for the Nebula and Hugo awards, and has won the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best SF short story of the year.

Fiction by Paolo Bacigalupi
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Windup Girl
SF Site Review: The Windup Girl
SF Site Review: Pump Six and Other Stories

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Alma A. Hromic

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The Alchemist If Scheherezade, Sleeping Beauty, and a committee of Middle Eastern and possibly Russian supernatural creatures had got together to tell a tale, this tale would probably be the one they came up with.

Evocative and atmospheric, with an underlay of alchemy and wild magic and Machiavellian politics, it's a slim volume which packs a world-building punch to it -- and perhaps the only real complaint I had was that this felt like a thin book with a fat book struggling to get out. I know... I know... that there's a whole lot more story here than is being told. Partly that serves to deepen my interest and pique my curiosity about the story that I AM being given -- but partly it manifests as a vague feeling best summarised by, "But I want to know MORE…" I'm not sure that's a fault, if a writer leaves a reader wanting more that's all to the good, surely. It's a perfect gem for its setting, as is -- except that I couldn't help a strong sense of other similar jewels being strewn around somewhere underneath all that magical kudzu briar that annihilates everything in this world -- somewhere, underneath it all, but lost because of the maze of poisonous thorns tangling above them.

I'd love to find them.

But in their absence -- this would be the perfect snack-sized offering that tastes like a much more major meal of a book. Perhaps a book to give to that annoying nephew or niece or cousin or aunt or perfect-in-every-way-but-this friend who says they don't read fantasy -- and who might well, after picking up this book, wind up being the genre's most vocal fans.

Nicely done.

Copyright © 2011 Alma A. Hromic

Alma A. Hromic, addicted (in random order) to coffee, chocolate and books, has a constant and chronic problem of "too many books, not enough bookshelves." When not collecting more books and avidly reading them (with a cup of coffee at hand), she keeps busy writing her own. Her international success, The Secrets of Jin Shei, has been translated into ten languages worldwide, and its follow-up, Embers of Heaven, is coming out in 2006. She is also the author of the fantasy duology The Hidden Queen and Changer of Days.


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