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The Dog Said Bow-Wow
Michael Swanwick
Tachyon Publications, 295 pages

Michael Swanwick
Michael Swanwick's third novel, Stations of the Tide, won a Nebula Award for best novel of 1991. It was also a nominee for the Hugo Award, as was his novella, Griffin's Egg, and was nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award in Britain. His first two published stories, The Feast of Saint Janis and Ginungagap were both Nebula Award finalists in 1980. Mummer Kiss was a Nebula Award nominee for 1981. The Man Who Met Picasso was a nominee for the World Fantasy Award in 1982.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Best of Michael Swanwick
SF Site Review: The Dragons of Babel
SF Site Review: The Dog Said Bow-Wow
SF Site Review: The Dog Said Bow-Wow
SF Site Review: Cigar-Box Faust, and Other Miniatures
SF Site Review: Cigar-Box Faust and Other Miniatures
SF Site Review: Tales of Old Earth
SF Site Review: The Iron Dragon's Daughter
SF Site Review: Jack Faust

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

'She, along with the others, waited and watched forů something. She could not say what. The light shifted slowly in the sky. It was small, intense, ugly.
Then the light screamed.
She woke up.'
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The Dog Said Bow-Wow Multi Hugo Award-winner Michael Swanwick presents sixteen short stories in this collection, some of which are loosely connected works featuring the same characters. These include the title work, which refers to the shifty human Darger, and his genetically adjusted canine companion, Surplus. There are a trio of adventures featuring the roguish duo, which the mathematically adept will have worked out means thirteen more self-contained works, including one novelette.

This is nicely versatile collection, encompassing a wide range of themes, changes of pace and variances in style. All the stories on offer are clearly the work of an accomplished author. The rest is down to personal taste, and I must confess that the Darger and Surplus tales left me cold. Happily, there were other gems to glitter before my mind's eye. "Hello Said The Stick" the opening piece, features a fateful encounter between a travelling soldier and a talking object. "Tin Marsh" details the deteriorating relationship between two far future prospectors, going mad in the hellish heat of Venus. "The Skysailor's Tale" is a novelette set aboard a British airship, where a father tells his son about his adventuring past. "Slow Life" from which the quote at the top of the page is taken, reveals just how alien space can be. "Legion In Time" is polished pulp fiction, which reminded me of George O. Smith. "Dirty Little War" is a smart story that covers only seven pages, yet has impact worthy of a movie. "The Bordello In Faerie" chronicles the fevered encounters of a human customer with Fey prostitutes, and more interestingly where this eventually leads him in his life. Best of the bunch, for me, was an unusual whodunit called "A Small Room In Kobold Town." The action takes place in a world where the supernatural is normal, often quite grubby life, and a murder most foul has been committed behind a locked door. Did the ghostly Haint do it? You'll have to read this Sam Spade among the spooks tale to find out.

The one criticism I have is that Swanwick's stories sometimes end on a discordant note. As if they are pages torn from larger works, perhaps whole books stillborn inside his imagination. More than once I wanted to know what happened next, and felt slightly frustrated that I was unlikely to ever find out. Perhaps this is exactly what the author intended, leaving readers intrigued rather than satiated. All of the stories in this collection are imbued with charm, wit and imagination. Some fade away like filler episodes of a favourite show, but others linger. The subjects will not be everyone's taste, but I can recommend the book without reservation, in particular to readers who don't need all the answers lined up like fairground ducks.

Copyright © 2009 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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