This is a book of short stories by Jeffrey Ford, who is
the terrific author of the Well Built City trilogy: The Physiognomy, Memoranda, and
the Beyond. He is also the author of Portrait of Mrs Charbuque. Those novels are
highly recommended by me. But this collection fell flat. There is a couple of tales
that are good - The Delicate is in the vein of the Well Built city (one of the
more interesting parts of this collection are the short explanations that Ford
appends to each tale.) In the background he provides for the Delicate, Ford
explains that the Delicate was sort of working genesis of a story that was later
expanded into the trilogy.
Another well written story is Exo-skeleton Town. Humans on
a distant planet wear tightly fitting spacesuits - and the outside of these suits have
been adapted to look like movie stars from Earth's 20th century. There are giant insects
on the planet that are fascinated by human movies, so the humans pretend to be the long
dead movie stars (apparently the bugs can't figure out that the stars are long dead.)
Creaton is a straightforward tale with a nice finish.
At the Reparata is a fantasy tale about a kingdom full of
bizarre folks in surreal circumstances - exactly the sort of thing that Ford does so
well. Ford has a knack for right strange scenes that convey a dreamlike sense of reality
(or unreality) - that is one of the things I appreciated the most when I read his trilogy.
But perhaps writing strangely requires experimentation, and some of the experiments are
failures. There are certainly a number of stories in this volume that read like failed
experiments. (Ford admits in one of the afterwords that he didn't expect that Pansolapia,
one of the short stories in this book, would be published.)
This book merits two stars because a few good stories aren't
enough to make it worth reading. Read his novels instead, they are much more enjoyable.