And they come with no warning,
nature loves her little surprises.
Continual crisis!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Sky That Wraps by Jay Lake

I've recently learned that it's good netiquette and writer etiquette to give reviews of books we receive in giveaways. I apologize to all those people who gave me free books up to this point. As you may have noticed, I don't often give reviews of books I'm reading. There are good reasons for that. But no more. While I reserve the right to keep to myself my opinions of books that I receive as giveaways in connection to an event (such as John Scalzi's The Sagan Diaries or the multitudes in the World Fantasy tote bags), I should give reviews of books that I receive from either the hand of the writer (and/or agent/publisher) or as promo giveaways.

At Confusion I went to a reading by Jay Lake very early in the morning and shared the audience with only Cat Rambo (it was very early in the morning). Which, in and of itself was enough for squee potential. But at the end of the reading Jay had two books to give away, Endurance, which is a sequal to Green and The Sky That Wraps. Being the junior writer of the pair (but probably the eldest in the room), I was given my choice of first pick. Since I haven't read Green yet, I went for The Sky that Wraps. I think both Cat and I got the better deal. Subterranean is sold out but Amazon still has four copies.

I really liked it. Out of 25 stories I only skipped one. For a short story collection, that's good for me. Thumbs up. If you like well crafted stories told by someone who isn't afraid to use his extensive vocabulary, go grab one of those 4 copies.

What? Still here? Okay.

I have to admit that I love Jay's fantasy works more than his space opera, and there's plenty in this book to satisfy my craving for good writing. Being a collection from one writer, the stories included range widely over the genre landscape and include many interstitial works. You have an excellent Howard pastiche in the Leopard's Paw, which I liked for both the romp of a story which reminded me what I liked best about Howard's stories and that these type of stories are still possible. In this age when we know Mars to be a barren planet, and that sensawonder we used to have about the world has faded, we can still enjoy stories of impossibly old civilizations tinged with magic and cyclopean technology. And you have the noir future of the title story. An excellent piece on notoriety, and trying to come to peace with a past you want to forget and a present filled with moral compromise told in the transnational future world. Their is the urban fantasy of The Number of the Bus and Green Grass Blues, and tinge with horror in Dogs in the Moonlight. There's also the post-human future in Skinhorse Goes to Mars. All very well done. But I think the story that affected me most was Witness to the Fall, a mixture of weird, old west, and noir fantasy. Not only was the story compelling, the writing was deeper and muscular. It matched very closely to the kind of story Jay read at confusion (a wonderful take on the "Devil's Gambit" where an old gunfighter runs into the Devil holding a bar-b-que and realizing he can't win, decides to go in style).

So, highly recommended. Better get one before they're all gone.

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