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A Yuletide Universe: Sixteen Fantastical Tales    edited by Brian M. Thomsen order for
Yuletide Universe
by Brian M. Thomsen
Order:  USA  Can
Aspect, 2003 (2003)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I am often leery of short story collections because of their inconsistency. Though there are a few lesser tales in A Yuletide Universe, the quality of writing (by big name authors like Harlan Ellison, Connie Willis, Donald Westlake and Anne McCaffrey) is generally excellent.

And these sixteen tales are a treat! The collection opens on cynical short shorts by Neil Gaiman, William Gibson (his Cyber-Claus is a nicely done takeoff on The Night Before Christmas) and Richard Matheson. Then Donald Westlake (what's he doing writing SF?) does a delightfully nasty Nackles, about an abusive father who threatens the kids with a monstrous Santa one time too often. My favorite of the collection, Harlan Ellison's Santa Claus vs. S.P.I.D.E.R., takes a hilarious Mission Impossible / alien invasion (they've crawled into the minds of 'Reagan, Johnson, Nixon, Humphrey, Daley, Wallace, Maddox, ... Spiro Agnew') spin on the holiday. And Chet Williamson packages the true meaning of Christmas in a vagrant mistaken for a pedophile in his remarkable O Come Little Children.

Kris Kringle consults a psychiatrist in Brian Thomsen's clever It's a Wonderful Miracle on 34th Street's Christmas Carol. You have to feel sorry for Clive Barker's poor lower demon, who tries so hard for so long to steal a soul before Christmas in The Yattering and Jack. Michael Bishop's Icicle Music takes a hard-edged, dark look at the holiday. Connie Willis is brilliant as always in her romantic, New Age Miracle, in which a Christmas Spirit intervenes hilariously to give Lauren her true heart's desire. Frank Baum does A Kidnapped Santa Claus. There's a corporate Plot Against Santa Claus by James Powell, and Anne McCaffrey's A Proper Santa Claus warns against killing children's imaginations.

If you're looking for an antidote to excessive seasonal sentimentality, then this is the book for you. And A Yuletide Universe makes the perfect gift for any SF fan on your list.

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