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Fantastic Companions
edited Julie E. Czerneda
Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 406 pages

Fantastic Companions
Julie E. Czerneda
Julie Czerneda is a Canadian science fiction writer who lives at the edge of a forest in Orillia, Ontario, with her husband and two children. A former researcher in animal communication, she has also written non-fiction that ranges from biology texts to the use of science fiction in developing literacy.

Julie E. Czerneda Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Survival
SF Site Review: Hidden in Sight
SF Site Review: Beholder's Eye
SF Site Review: In the Company of Others
SF Site Review: Ties of Power
SF Site Review: A Thousand Words For Stranger
SF Site Review: Beholder's Eye

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

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Julie Czerneda's anthology Fantastic Companions is a collection of stories which deal with the oftentimes symbiotic relationships between heroes in fantasy fiction and their non-human compatriots. The anthology of nineteen stories run the gamut from the familiar companions, like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like salmon and griffins, to the downright strange of constellations and kites.

The anthology opens up with a look at cats, wolves, and dogs in stories by Catharine Dybiec Holm, John Mierau, and Doranna Durgin. While some of their ideas are interesting, particularly Mierau's contrast of the pack wolf mentality and the isolationism of dragonkind, these stories don't really grab the reader the way some of the later stories do.

Some of the strongest stories in the book, Mindy Klasky's "Darkbeast," Sarah Jane Elliott's "Blood Ties," and Janet Elizabeth Chase's "Robes and Wands" ironically give the reader the feeling that the stories are incomplete. The authors of these stories have created complex back stories and have included hooks, not all of which are rewarded. This may mean, of course, that the authors are planning on expanding on their scenarios, either with a novel or a series of short stories.

Jane Carol Petrovich provides a reasonably complex look at how the brevity of a relationship can affect enormous change on the individual and the way society views that individual. Mikhail begins "The Power of Eight" as an outcast, but when he finds himself in the arms of the ancient guardians, he begins to rely on them as a crutch, not realizing the changes they are bringing out in him as he gains confidence in his own abilities.

Other stories are reasonably predictable, such as Wen Spencer's "Once Upon a Toad," which could have easily been made unpredictable and more interesting. Matt Walker's "The Day Michael Visited Happy Lake," on the other hand, is equally predictable, but manages to completely express the comfort to be found in the companionship of old books.

Five of the stories are first time sales, which says a great deal about Czerneda's interest in promoting new talent in the field. In addition to the aforementioned Chase and Petrovich, first timer Daniel Archambault provides what may be the anthology's most memorable story with "A Sirius Situation," in which the constellation fall from the sky and take on their anthropomorphisms.

Other first time authors include Kent Pollard with "Uncle Ernie Was a Goat," which suffers from the author not revealing details of his story's background which would be helpful in allowing the reader to understand his world. Fran LaPlaca's "Wings to Fly," in which a girl discovers that a behest is sometimes hidden behind its most obvious form.

At their best, the stories in Fantastic Companions are entertaining and explore issues which, although they have a fantastic setting and characters, are still pertinent to our own world. Even those stories which don't have that sense of transcendence manage to be entertaining and often look at the world from an interesting, and quirky point of view.

Copyright © 2007 Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is a seven-time Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer and the editor of the anthologies Wondrous Beginnings, Magical Beginnings, and Horrible Beginnings. He is the publisher of ISFiC Press. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is heavily involved in convention running and publishes the fanzine Argentus.


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