Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Alembical, edited by Lawrence M. Schoen and Arthur Dorrance

I've covered each of the four stories in Alembical in previous posts.

"America, Such as She Is", by Jay Lake
"13 Miles to Paradise!", by Bruce Taylor
"Harvest", by James Van Pelt
"Now You See Us", by Ray Vukcevich

This is a bit of a wrap up post, not too much of a review. At this point clicking on the story links will be more informative than anything I could repeat here.

So, here's the short version. There are two stories (out of four) which are quite good - the Jay Lake and the James Van Pelt. I swear this has nothing to do with the fact that both writers share my first initial. "America, Such as She Is" is exceptionally strong and I hope to see it on Award ballots over the next year. It's really that good and I feel strongly about the story. "Harvest" is a strong second-best.

After that, there's a bit of a drop off. I believe that some readers would completely disagree with my assessment and would think Bruce Taylor's story was the strongest, or even "Now You See Us". The fact that I think those readers are wrong does nothing to deny that possibility. Each story in Alembical is well written and competent. I believe that two of the stories rise above well written and competent, and one of those two achieves something greater all together.

The fact is that with Alembical you have 78 pages of excellent fiction that I do recommend. You also have 72 pages of fiction which I cannot recommend, though which could also be considered well written and competent. Think about your average collection or anthology. If more than half of the content of the anthology or collection is worth recommending, you've probably hit on a fairly solid anthology. Alembical fits that bill. For Jay Lake's story alone, I would recommend finding a copy of the anthology. For fans of novellas, I'd recommend finding a copy. The editors here made a point to publish novellas, the longer length story which can be more difficult to find a home for in magazines. Alembical is not the best thing since sliced bread, but Mr. Lake's story shines. Mr. Van Pelt's story is also worth getting a hold of. It's a solid anthology of four original novellas.

Reading copy provided courtesy of Paper Golem.

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