The Empire of Ice Cream


Jeffrey Ford


Fantasy / Science Fiction


Date Reviewed:

October 13, 2006

his is a book of short stories by Jeffrey Ford. I am giving it a rating of 3 stars, but to tell truth, I am sorta disappointed by the book. I have really high expectations of Ford, based upon his novels, but nothing in this collection left me super impressed.

The longest story in this book is Botch Town. It is story about a young lad in a town of creepy mystery - this is more of a horror story than a fantasy. There is a lot of nice ideas here - the library has all these books by Perno Shell, and they are written by a different author. The ice cream vendor never hands out the missing puzzle piece that will finish the clown's face. His sister Mary may be a mathemetical genius or a nutcase. Charlie Edisson, a child that attends the same school, goes missing, and Mary says he is lying in the bottom of the lake. But in the end the pieces don't seem to hang together to tell a story, it reads like Ford just tossed a whole bunch of good ideas into a story, and when he had no more ideas to throw in the pot, the story ends. It is really just a string of nice vignettes.

The Annals of Eelin-Ok is a story about a miniature fairy that lives for one day in a sandcastle built on the shore. When the tide rolls in, the castle will be washed away, and Eelin-Ok's one day on earth will end. It's a nice story.

A Night in the Tropics is a story about a guy who steals a cursed chess set. The part about the mural on the wall is really good, but the curse is so predictable, the ending seems trite and it is ultimately disappointing.

The Empire of Ice Cream was nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy Award and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial award. It is good story, but geez, it isn't THAT good. It is the story about lad whose senses portray the world differently than perceived by most humans - for example, he will perceive a sound as a color - indeed, the protogatonist becomes a composer and and he writes his music using a box of crayons. It turns out that tastes and smells will also yield altered perceptions to him, and later in life he discovers that the taste of coffee allows him to perceive a nebulous young artist. (He is in an ice cream shop when he has his first taste of coffee ice cream, which explains the title.) So if a little bit of coffee yields a dim glimpse of this woman artist, what would happen if he drank a whole lot of coffee?

The Beautiful Gelreesh is a short story about a creature who can project an illusionary image.

The Boatman's Holiday is an ingenious idea - would Charon, the boatman who ferries souls across the river Styx (or is it the river Lethe??? I forget) ever get a vacation? A soul that he ferries across the river has given him a map, and told a strange tale about a sanctuary that he invented by writing about it. Apparently, words create reality - they create Heaven and Hell, and this writer as added his words to describe Oondeshai.

A Man of Light is the story of a reporter who interviews a reclusive, wealthy genius, a man who has learned how to manipulate light for art and industry. There is a good description about how they first meet in a room that is dimly lit, and all green colored. The genius, Larchcroft, is clothed entirely in the same shade of green as the walls and furniture, so his head appears to float into the room. Unfortunately, the ending for this promising story is predictable.

Giant Land is a circular story, everything a character does causes another event until finally things come full This is a nice fantasy story.

Coffins on the River is a real disappointment. This is not one of Ford's better efforts. It concerns two aging stoner artists who partake in a new fancy drug, and think they see a pink house - imprisoned inside is a missing girl. But it turns out that their perceptions are not real. Nevertheless, they report the missing girl, the license plate number of the car, to the police, and sure enough, 3 days later that is exactly how the girl is found. Yawn.

Summer Afternoon is just 4 pages of filler. Ford adds a little note after each of his stories, describing something that he was thinking about when the story was written, or where it was published, or some other background material. Summer Afternoon gets 3 pages of notes for a 4 page story.