Archive for Elizabeth Hand

Dark Alchemy – edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois

Posted in Books with tags , , , , on June 30, 2007 by Cara Marie

Dark Alchemy wasn’t as exciting as I thought it might be. It had a good selection of authors, which is why I got it, and of course what can be wrong with a collection about wizards/witches/mages and so forth. And they were decent stories, but none of them really stunned me. Maybe I have been reading too much science fiction. Fantasy short stories just aren’t cutting it.

My favourite was Orson Scott Card’s Stone Father. I am not sure if this is entirely on the story’s own virtue, because I am a geology student and so if a story talks a lot about rocks I am pleased. I am adoring of anything with stone mages (thus Street Magic was always my favourite Tamora Pierce book). And the main character really liked rocks. Yay! And was very good at clambering up steep outcrops! I am not, which sucks for me. It is really quite amazing how fast some people can get up there. Eep.

Nancy Kress’s Stone Man I did not like so much. The main character had had a rather terrible life and complained about it a lot and was rather difficult. While it was understandable, I have little sympathy for angsty teenage boys. Also, despite having stone magic I got no sense that he actually liked rocks. The fact that it was stone magic he had didn’t really matter to the story. This is a disappointment to me. Winter’s Wife by Elizabeth Hand was much better. The title character I think actually was a rock! Like a rock who had decided to be human. A granite, actually. There were some really lovely descriptions in that one, particularly of the house Winter has built and carved out.

My least favourite story in the collection was by Kage Baker, whom I have never read before – The Ruby Incomparable. It was sort of the story of this girl’s life – the daughter of a professional dark lord and the Saint of the World – how she did great deeds, fell in love with a toymaker for no apparent reason whilst nursing him back to health, and then wondered why none of her great deeds satisfied her until she found fulfillment, and a new challenge, in having her first daughter.

It was bearable enough until it got to the falling in love part. It reminded me of Juliet Marillier’s true love type stories. Except told very tersely, and with none of the emotion and detail Juliet Marillier brings to her writing. And maybe I’m young and haven’t had my maternal instinct kick in, but I don’t like being told the only way to find satisfaction in life is to have babies. It wasn’t as if the story wasn’t reasonable enough; it was the way Kage Baker told it that bugged me.

I would far rather have heard about Svnae’s parents, her ‘living goddess’ mother who ran her husband’s household and bore him fourteen childreen and still managed to keep up correspondance with her disciples.

…that was the only story I really found objectionable. Most of them were enjoyable, if not especially inspiring. Neil Gaiman wrote one of those lovely comfortable short stories for children that he does, and Peter Beagle writes as beautifully as ever. I still find Patricia McKillip hard going. And Jane Yolen sure writes one sexy Elijah, guilty as I feel for saying that.

I suppose the collection just felt quite variable quality-wise, or at least in terms of what I like, and I haven’t come away from in enthusiastic about someone new. However, it does make me like Orson Scott Card more than ever. It was the longest story in the book and there is a bad geology pun waiting to happen here but I will resist. World, you need to produce more stories for rock-lovers, please thank you.