You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales

McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales is an anthology of short stories published in 2003. The stories are somewhat thrilling but of mixed quality. They have elements of alternative history, science fiction, and westerns.

One of the highlights is Elmore Leonard's "How Carlos Webster Changed His Name to Carl and Became a Famous Oklahoma Lawman". The story follows the title character in two episodes: the first when he witnesses a mobster kill a police officer, and then when years later when he sets a trap for the mobster and gets the drop on him. The main character is a tough young man who becomes a capable and crafty lawman.

Another interesting tale is Glen David Gold's "The Tears of Squonk, and What Happened Thereafter". It is about the death of a circus elephant, and the history of one of the clowns that may have been involved with the elephant for years. The story is a tragedy with a strange twist. I enjoyed reading "Catskin" by Kelly Link, even when I realized I had read it once in another anthology. It is a very weird tale of fantasy, in which a murdered witch's cat leads the witch's surviving son on a mission of vengeance. The story is full of transformations and strange powers.

Neil Gaiman's "Closing Time" is a gem of a story, told inside a framing story by someone at an English club. The narrator tells of an eerie old house and the spooky woods, where three boys end up getting lost. It evokes the dark side of childhood, when mysteries are everywhere and dark things are just around the corner. Michael Moorcock's "The Case of the Nazi Canary" is a fun alternate history story concerning Adolph Hitler and the death of his niece in 1931. Another fun tale was Michael Chabon's "The Martian Agent, a Planetary Romance". It's another alternate history story in a Wild West where Queen Victoria still rules and General Custer is a rebel fighting for freedom. It follows two sons of one of Custer's rebels as they escape and are caught and try to survive in a tough group home.

Some of these stories were fun and imaginative, with interesting historical twists. The characters are strong and well-drawn, within the confines of a short story. But some of the stories fell a little flat. I was a bit disappointed in the stories by Stephen King and Michael Crichton's stories. Other stories were adequate but hardly what I'd call thrilling. They certainly had a fantastic or strange setting but the story didn't quite come together. The stories cover a wide range of settings, moods, and characters. B-

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