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Rite: Short Work
Tad Williams
Subterranean Press, 464 pages

Rite: Short Work
Tad Williams
Tad Williams is the bestselling author of Tailchaser's Song and the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy. He is co-founder of an interactive television company, and is currently writing comic books and film and television scripts as well as novels.

Tad Williams Website
Tad Williams Other Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Shadowmarch
SF Site Review: The War of the Flowers
SF Site Review: Sea of Silver Light
SF Site Interview: Tad Williams
SF Site Review: Otherland, Vol. 3: Mountain of Black Glass
SF Site Review:Otherland Vol. 2: River of Blue Fire
SF Site Review:Otherland Vol. 1: City of Golden Shadow

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil


"As she waits with the troops mustered to relieve Orleans, her back spear-straight while veteran captains like de Loré and de C'lant gossip and laugh nearby, her gaze lifts from the men at arms to me, and from me to the overarching skies. Her meaning and determination are unmistakable... but as I watch the small, clever milkmaid's face, eyes ecstatic and cheeks brushed with the ruddiness of excitement, I cannot help but reflect on the contrast it makes with her bright, masculine armour. She is much like me, I realise -- just another ghost in a different machine."
Many readers will be familiar with the work of Tad Williams, writer of door-stopper sized fantasy epics such as the Memory, Sorrow & Thorn set, or the near-future virtual worlds adventure that is Otherland. Fewer readers will have read Williams shorter works, collected here for the first time. As a reader of his epics, I was curious to find out if the writer who has achieved such mastery over the long form could also excel when the page count had to be very much lower. Happily, the answer is yes. For the most part, Rite: Short Work will delight established readers, and would make a satisfying introduction to those who baulk at Williams multi-volume stuff. There are a few misses, but far more hits. The collection includes an introduction from the author explaining why he writes what he writes, followed by fifteen short stories, five non-fiction pieces, two television ideas, and to finish off, a two-page title work. All of which include their own informative, entertaining introductory pieces. The appeal will depend on personal taste, but I can safely say each inclusion has received the literary spit and polish that has made Williams so successful. The big difference, of course, is that in this collection he has been forced by form into what his critics have often suggested; seriously good editing that allows less to be more.

What makes this collection impressive is the variety, ingenuity, enthusiasm and storytelling craft the author exhibits. Nothing feels like it was thrown in as a filler, and most of the works are clearly separate from his epic tomes. What's on offer includes "The Happiest Dead Boy in the World," a delightful piece featuring Orlando Gardiner, one of the more endearing characters from Otherland. The story can be understood as a stand-alone work, but will be more enjoyable for those already familiar with the enormous back story. "A Tale from the Book of Regret" is a classical folktale about imaginary folk, written as a companion piece to the author's Shadowmarch novels. "Nonstop" tells the tale of Henry Stankey, a painter who hates flying, and the ultimate destination to which his fear leads. It would make a great episode of The Twilight Zone. The two unproduced ideas for television are the first couple of episodes for a comedy called "The Cloak" for which Williams hoped the surreal British comedian Eddie Izzard would play the lead role, and "Dog Versus the World" another comedy, this time about a scrawny new arrival among a bunch of dogs, some without nuts. "Go Ask Elric" is, as the title suggests, a genuine Elric story, of sorts. It's a light-hearted piece, told from the perspective of Sammy, a tripping Hippie who at first mistakes the albino for Johnny Winter. "Z is For" gives us a quite disturbing tale of alien contact, in which those from above are not our friends. "The Stuff that Dreams Are Made Of" features a down-at-heel magician, employed to investigate the apparently suspicious demise of an inspirational forerunner. "Child of an Ancient City" crosses the Arabian Nights with the tale of an ancient vampyr. In "The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch" we have an example of Williams writing in praise and explanation of Philip K. Dick. My favourite was "The Scent of Trumpets the Voice of Smoke," a fabulous, cinematic story, about a man seeking redemption via an excursion to inner space; a world created for him inside his own mind, where he meets the legendary Joan of Arc.

My overall impression was that this collection is Tad Williams having fun, but never losing sight of who he is, and what his audience wants. I read it mostly while on the move, across sea by Fast Cat, then overland at the mercy of the malodorous beast that is British Rail. Throughout I found Rite: Short Work to be an agreeable travelling companion; witty, entertaining and thought provoking, with occasional glimpses into hidden depths. I can, therefore, recommend it to fellow travellers, be they in motion or merely passing through time.

Copyright © 2007 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

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