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Dogs of Truth: New and Uncollected Stories
Kit Reed
Tor, 288 pages

Dogs of Truth: New and Uncollected Stories
Kit Reed
A Guggenheim fellow, Kit Reed is the first American recipient of an international literary grant from the Abraham Woursell Foundation. She's had stories in, among others, The Yale Review, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Omni, and The Norton Anthology of Contemporary Literature. Both Weird Women, Wired Women and Little Sisters of the Apocalypse were finalists for the Tiptree Prize. She is a Professor of English at Wesleyan University.

Kit Reed Website
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A review by Paul Kincaid

I remember first coming across Kit Reed's stories in the 70s. They were always the distinctive ones, the ones that lodged in the memory because there was something quirky, challenging or simply refreshing about them. Getting on some 40 years later she is still turning out stories that are fresh, daring, clever, unexpected, all the things we love about really great science fiction. In that time she has won plaudits from most of the top writers in the genre, and from most of the serious press outside the genre. So how come there is still a sense of an undiscovered treasure about her? How come she isn't automatically recognised far and wide for what she is, quite simply one of the best writers at work in the genre today?

If you want to be converted to the cause, go out and read Dogs of Truth right now. I promise, you'll enjoy the experience, and you'll come away from it knowing that here is a writer who deserves, who demands, to be treasured. Because nobody else writes stories quite like Kit Reed, and these sharp, skewed perspectives open up worlds in a way that is breathtaking. Despite her long career her writing is still vivacious, engaging with contemporary culture, experimenting with tone and style. Several of her stories are addressed in part or in full to 'you,' or talk intimately of 'we'; they are stories that accuse us of the shortcomings that are ruthlessly isolated, that make us complicit in the crimes and errors her characters commit so blithely. It means that however distorted the mirror she holds up, we can always be sure that it is our own reflections we regard.

Her subject, predominantly, is the family; but the family is a prison from which her characters plot their escape. Sometimes they succeed, only to find that there is a price for success. Nothing is easy in a Kit Reed story. The narrator of 'Escape from Shark Island', for instance, is the eldest daughter of television's golden, perfect family, a family whose dictatorial mother insists that they all sleep together in one massive bed. Then the daughter discovers what happened to her older brothers, who tried to get away from the bed. 'Escape from Shark Island' has a happy ending, of sorts, but that is not usually the case. Two sisters who try to escape the suffocating rule of their dead father by selling off all his possessions only succeed in waking a vengeful ghost. When the hero of 'No Two Alike' escapes from the stultifying ordinariness of married life thanks to a secretive organisation that gives him a new face, he finds that his new life is a trap of a different sort, and he still can't quite leave behind his feelings for his old family. And when Dave walks away from his old life by simply and impulsively getting off his commuter train when it stops in the middle of nowhere, in 'Incursions,' he finds himself in a remote house occupied by a crowd of other Daves who all did the same.

Children in particular occupy an ambiguous position in these stories. In 'The Shop of Little Horrors' a happily childless couple find themselves pursued through New York by six screaming brats in push-chairs. In 'Playmate' a stressed modern housewife in a sterile gated community cannot quite understand what is happening with her son and his eerie new playmate. One of the outstanding stories in this outstanding collection, 'High Rise High,' treats a riot in a modern school as if it were a high-security prison, and explores the different things that family and childhood mean to the various people caught up in the events.

There are stories that venture outside the family: a blocked writer and his former muse getting back together after twenty years in 'Getting It Back,' the discovery that even death is no escape in 'The Zombie Prince,' a nonagenarian Islamist assassin finally coming face to face with a nonagenarian Salman Rushdie in 'Grand Opening.' But even these deal again and again with the entrapment of the ordinary and the perils of escape. This level of discomfort deserves to be far more celebrated within the genre. For your own sake, don't miss Kit Reed.

Copyright © 2006 by Paul Kincaid

Paul Kincaid is the administrator of the Arthur C. Clarke Award and reviews for most of the critical journals in science fiction, as well as contributing to numerous reference books.

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