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Strange Trades
Paul Di Filippo
Golden Gryphon Press, 343 pages

Strange Trades
Paul Di Filippo
Paul Di Filippo lives in Providence, Rhode Island. He is the author of five story collections, Destroy All Brains, The Steampunk Trilogy, Ribofunk, Fractal Paisleys, and Lost Pages. Paul Di Filippo's first novel, Ciphers, was published by Cambrian Publications and Permeable Press. Cambrian Publications plans to publish two more of his novels: Joe's Liver and Spondulix.

Paul Di Filippo Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Lost Pages
SF Site Review: Ribofunk
SF Site Review: Fractal Paisleys
SF Site Review: The Steampunk Trilogy

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

Welcome to another mix of song titles, obscure pop culture references, the kind of weird ideas only science fiction writers get, and those odd people who always seem to live just down the street. Paul Di Filippo is a writer whose work seems to appear everywhere, from the professional magazines to fanzines and websites. He's at his best in his short stories, which often feature an oddball sense of humour and delight in popular culture. His latest short story collection is nominally based on the theme of odd occupations, but it's really a sometimes silly, sometimes serious overview of the writing of one of those authors whose gift is to present sharply painted images in small packages.

The highlight is "The Mill," a tale of interstellar capitalist exploitation that's made all the more realistic by its connection to the author's family history. The trap presented by the mills' product and their off-world buyer is all the better for its even-handed treatment of a father who rebels and a son who supports the system. "Spondulix" also explores an oddity in the capitalist economic scheme as a deli, desperate for business, issues its own currency. The deli owner follows events a bit bewildered as his innovation draws the attention of gangsters and federal agents.

In a similar fashion, "Conspiracy of Noise" and "Agents" explore some of the more sinister possibilities inherent in internet culture. Di Filippo's "Stone Lives" was part of the cyberpunk Mirrorshades anthology, and "Conspiracy" and "Agents" are further evidence of his feel for the form. And because no Di Filippo collection would be complete without one story title lifted from a song, "Kid Charlemagne" starts Strange Trades off with just the right mix of near-future pop culture and dark emotion.

While Ribofunk included a series of tales linked together in an over-arching story, and Fractal Paisleys' stories were written from a common point of view, the stories in Strange Trades present a much wider overview of the range of Di Filippo's writing. Because it spans the length of his career, the influences (Ballard, Dick, Delany) are more apparent, as is the development of the author from talented imitator to individual stylist. If you have yet to discover the short fiction of Paul Di Filippo, Strange Trades is a fine place to start.

Copyright © 2001 Greg L. Johnson

After reading Strange Trades, reviewer Greg L. Johnson is convinced that he should be working in a stranger job. His reviews also appear in The New York Review of Science Fiction.

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