This weekend I had the opportunity to read the two novelettes from The Coyote Road, an anthology of “trickster” stories (plus the Will Shetterly story but that’s just because I wanted to read his story before his first Shadow Unit entry came up).
First up was “The Fiddler of Bayou Teche” by Delia Sherman. As a trickster story we did have a couple of interesting and nearly rigged bets (as the trickster is looking only for a good trick to benefit himself), but I felt nothing during the story. I know that I’m not necessarily supposed to feel empathy for the characters, but I didn’t care, either, about anything in the story. I don’t think I would have even nominated this one.
Next was Kij Johnson’s "The Evolution of Trickster Stories Among the Dogs Of North Park After the Change". Heartbreaking. So much of reading is as much what the reader brings to the book as what the writer brings to the reader. I am a dog owner. Kij Johnson’s story of dogs abandoned after “The Change” just kills because the dogs’ basic nature hasn’t changed, just the fact that they can now speak. From the very start this was a moving story and Johnson did not let up. Stories are more than concepts, though, there has to be execution and I think that Kij Johnson nailed this one. The format has several different stories being told, some by the dogs, others of the main storyline of a woman visiting North Park to see the dogs and help them out as she can.
As for the Will Shetterly story. I liked it. I much prefer Kij Johnson’s story, but Shetterly’s was better than the nominated Delia Sherman story.
The whole “Trickster” tale concept isn’t one that really appeals to me as a reader, so despite a Kelly Link and Jeffrey Ford story still unread in the anthology, I’m sending The Coyote Road back to the library with only three stories read. They were the three I really wanted to read.