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Stories: All New Tales    edited by Neil Gaiman & Al Sarrantonio order for
by Neil Gaiman
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

In their introduction to the short story collection, Stories: All New Tales, co-editors Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio identify the criteria for inclusion as being 'stories that made us care, stories that forced us to turn the page.' Gaiman goes on to summarize this into just four words '... and then what happened.' There are 27 stories in this anthology, all of which were written for it rather than being collected from other sources. The authors have won many awards and are known for writing many types of fiction - mostly horror, science fiction and fantasy, mysteries, suspense, or just plain contemporary tales. The quality of writing is high, and there are common themes. Two-thirds of the stories deal with death or murder, and nearly that many are imaginative fiction.

I liked about one-third of the stories a lot and really wanted to know what happened next. Samantha's Diary, a new take on the song The Twelve Days of Christmas was hilarious and my favorite in the collection. Samantha works hard to control her steadily deteriorating situation, and what her solution would be certainly kept me wondering. The tale was written by Diana Wynne Jones who also wrote the novel Howl's Moving Castle, another delightful, imaginative romp. Human Intelligence is a totally different sort of story, which gives a new twist to the possibility of visitations from other planets. Kurt Andersen keeps the reader wondering as this intensely interesting and thought-provoking story tells us little by little about the meeting between a lonely alien and an excited explorer. Good gods fight evil in New York City in Wildfire in New York and the ending is both surprising and satisfying. Another one that I really liked was Juvenal Nyx by Walter Mosley about a good vampire who falls in love.

There were a few stories, though, that I just didn't understand. For instance, Polka Dots and Moonbeams and Goblin Lake were both set in strange places and left me wondering what that was all about. It's hard to think about what happens next if you can't figure out what happens first. All in all, though, there is no lack of imagination and excellent writing in this collection. My preference for the lighter stories would not be shared by everyone, as I know many people enjoy reading murder mysteries, whether they're set in real time or not. I liked discovering authors who were new to me and plan to use this book as a reference guide to refresh my memory about their styles when I'm looking for something to read. Then again, there were those delightful high points when I got to the wonderful stories that really made me wonder ... and then what happened as I enjoyed reading them.

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