THE PERSEIDS AND OTHER STORIES
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
The nine stories included in The Perseids are loosely related to each other by their common setting (mostly Toronto) and the existence of a small used bookstore, Finders, which finds its way into almost every story. Additionally, and more importantly, many of the stories are thematically linked, exploring the role of humans in the universe and overlaying mysticism on the rational world.
Finders is a key element in the mysticism which appears throughout the collection. The first story, "The Fields of Abraham," relates the story of Oscar Ziegler, the mysterious owner, and young Jacob, an orphan who Ziegler takes under his wing. Not only does the story introduce the reader to Finders, but it also introduces the supernatural, which forms such a great presence throughout the collection. This is the first publication of "The Fields of Abraham," and readers who are already familiar with Ziegler and Finders from other stories will see the character in a whole new light after reading this story.
Two other stories see their first publication in The Perseids. "Ulysses Sees the Moon in the Bedroom Window" and "Pearl Baby" were both written specifically for the collection. "Pearl Baby," is a follow up to the Hugo-nominated "Divided by Infinity," and follows Finders as it passes to a new owner, Deirdre Frank, who appeared in several of the earlier stories in the collection.
Even though two thirds of the stories in The Perseids are reprinted, their original publication occurred in some reasonably obscure anthologies, so most of the stories will be unfamiliar to many of the readers, even those who have some knowledge of Wilson's writings. "Divided by Infinity" is probably the most accessible story, having been published in Patrick Nielsen Hayden's Starlight 2 and reprinted in Gardner Dozois's The Year's Best Science Fiction 16. Several other stories were reprinted in Realms of Fantasy.
"Divided by Infinity" is one of the high points of the collection. It tells the story of Bill Keller, a widower whose wife worked at Finders before her death. Keller has discovered that every decision made has multiple outcomes and each outcome exists in an equally real world. Someone who tries to commit suicide multiple times, as Keller has, will continue to exist in some worlds, even as he makes his existence more and more unlikely. Although this idea has been presented several times, Wilson manages to do it with a sense of wonder, adding in the common clichés of disappearing bookstores and books which never existed.
Another high point is the title story. Like many of the stories in The Perseids, "The Perseids" focuses on a relatively rational person who finds himself caught up in the inexplicable. He must choose whether to accept the mysticism which threatens to turn his whole world upside down or to fight it and cling to the truth as he has learned it throughout his life. This same lesson comes across in "Plato's Mirror" and "The Inner Inner City" as well.
In many ways, notable is merger of the supernatural and the natural and his Canadian settings, Wilson's stories have a feel which is similar to the writing of his countryman, Charles de Lint, although the two men have very different focuses of their works. Nevertheless, Wilson's writing should appeal to de Lint's fans who are waiting for his next Newford story.
The Perseids indicate that for all the acclaim Wilson has won as the novelist of Darwinia and Bios, he is equally skilled at the art of short story writing. With luck, his writing will catch the eyes of Gordon van Gelder, Gardner Dozois and Stanley Schmidt a little more often to allow more people to become familiar with his writing.
|The Fields of Abraham||Ulyssess Sees the Moon in the Bedroom Window|
|The Perseids||Plato's Mirror|
|The Inner Inner City||Divided by Infinity|
|The Observer||Pearl Baby|
|Protocols of Consumption|
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