rating: 3 of 5 stars
I have been a huge fan of When Gravity Fails since it came out, and I recently read and enjoyed the other Marîd Audran books. So I wanted to find out if Effinger's short fiction was as good as those novels.
My overall impression was "mostly not." But even though I disliked a number of the stories for one reason or another, I found it interesting to read a set of stories that had been written over such a long period of time (between 1971 and 1997).
This book was published after Effinger's unfortunately early death and each story (or set of stories) is introduced by a different writer. Do skip the introductions until afterward if you aren't familiar with the stories, because some of them contain spoilers.
One thing I found interesting was that although all the stories are skillfully written, stories written later (generally but not universally) brought up more complex emotions for me than stories written earlier.
Of particular interest are the seven stories and one poem that Effinger wrote under a pseudonym, O. Niemand. Each of the pieces was written in the style of a different American writer (O. Henry, Ernest Hemingway, etc.), and they all more or less take place in the same sfnal world. The gimmick itself is pretty clever, and he pulls off effectively, but I thought most of the stories also worked well as science fiction in their own right. (I read them without knowing the gimmick, and the only one I recognized the style of was the poem.)
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