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Can't Catch Me: And Other Twice-Told Tales    by Michael Cadnum order for
Can't Catch Me
by Michael Cadnum
Order:  USA  Can
Tachyon, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Michael Cadnum puts a new spin on various fairy tales, folktales, myths, nursery rhymes, and even Shakespeare in his collection of short stories, Can't Catch Me: And Other Twice-Told Tales. Some of them now end happily, others in despair. A few are not re-tellings at all, but modern short stories about mythical characters. My favorite, Arrival, tells of a California lawyer down on his luck. When all hope seems lost, he pulls out a souvenir from a trip to Greece, a small stone carving. He sends out a plea to the god Hermes, which is answered. However, as in many fairy tales, his wish may come with a price he is not willing to pay.

One great thing about reading an author's collected works is that certain themes re-occur. In three stories, Cadnum writes of people whose annoying behaviors are silenced by a misfortune - wrought by the protagonist and directly concerning their mouths. The best of these stories is his earliest of the three, The Flounder's Kiss, based on the folktale, The Fisherman's Wife. One day, a poor fisherman catches a magic fish, that grants him wishes, causing his wife to get greedy. However, Cadmun ends it in a fashion not found in any other incarnation of the folktale. And - as with all his stories based on traditional tales - Cadmun delves more into the psyche of the protagonist than fairy tales ever do.

Two of the eighteen stories didn't work for me. After reading Ella and the Canary Prince (a takeoff on Cinderella) I was confused, and a re-reading of the five-page piece did nothing to further my understanding. And while Gravity was very well-written, understandable, and fully-developed, this science fiction story of the re-animating of Sir Isaac Newton did not seem to me a twice-told tale. However, the majority of the short stories in Can't Catch Me are entertaining and enjoyable reads.

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