CM . . . . Volume XV Number 9. . . .December 19, 2008
Tesseracts Twelve: New Novellas of Canadian Fantastic Fiction.
Claude Lalumière, ed.
Calgary, Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2008.
285 pp., pbk., $19.95.
Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.
Review by Ronald Hore.
Unlike the miners who had discovered the creature, when the gold rush had petered out Samuel had given up on his stake and settled into his one-room cabin, writing the odd dispatch for the local rag and tutoring ill-lettered prospectors in exchange for flakes of gold dust or odd fossils that they felt had no value. Once Fanny Alice had even given him a molar from what Samuel assumed was a mammoth, one she'd been given by a customer, and that tooth – larger than his fist, yellowed and dirty and well –worn from an apparently long life of grinding down vegetation – held a special place of pride in his small collection. She had told him that it had special
properties, but he had dismissed that as an exaggeration.
It so happened that Samuel was just bidding farewell to one of his students – scraggly and unkempt, smelling of tallow and burnt caribou flesh, as they all did – when a small crowd seemed to spontaneously form on the icy patch of road beside his sagging grey front stoop. He blinked in surprise at the sight of so many people, wondering if perhaps he'd drunkenly promised a group lesson the other night while consuming his self-assigned monthly allotment of alcohol.
Tesseracts Twelve is the latest anthology in the Tesseracts series of speculative fiction. This time, they take a look at
novellas, those stories too lengthy to be normally considered short stories, but too short to be considered novels. As in past collections, the authors are all Canadian writers. The seven stories range in length from 28 to 57 pages. The 285 pages include a two page foreword by one editor, a two page afterword by the other editor, and three pages of biographies of the authors. In addition, there are four pages listing other titles by this publisher.
The first story in the anthology is
Ancients of the Earth, a tale of what happens in the early 1900's when a prehistoric shaman's curse results in mammoths and cavemen appearing in Dawson City in the Yukon. Samuel, a former schoolteacher, and Fannie Alice, a lady with a reputation, have to combat the resulting problems.
This story is followed by
Beneath the Skin, a fantasy story set in ancient Japan. A samurai, Hirota Satoshi, and the woman he was given as a gift, Akemi, journey with Hirota's hard drinking friend, Hideki, to solve the mystery of why a village can't afford to pay its taxes.
The third tale in the collection is
Intersections, an urban fantasy set in the city of Montreal. It revolves around the love life of two women who have a serious problem caused by their psychic powers. Things happen over which they have no control.
The Story of the Woman and Her Dog, takes place in Toronto, although the narrative is more like something out of the Arabian Nights. This is a circular tale that involves Natasha and her very complicated relationships, and a series of stories.
The next story,
Ringing the Changes in Okotoks, Alberta, offers an amusing change of pace wherein we have the local folk in a small town drawn into pagan rituals to bring prosperity. An eclectic collection of town counsellors battle each other in the meetings while entertaining a growing suspicion that something supernatural is afoot.
Wonjjang and the Madman of Pyongyang leads the reader into a wacky world of the superhero as the commercialized versions battle supervillains in Korea. We follow the adventures of Wonjjang as he tries to defeat Kim Noh Wang while struggling with the everyday problems of an employer, a mother, and a growing interest in the opposite sex.
The final story in the anthology is
Wylde's Kingdom. Taking realistic survivor television to the extreme, Max is thrown into situations where his life is constantly in jeopardy. The favourite theme of the show is having Max eliminate the last members of a dangerous species that are on the brink of extinction anyway.
For the lovers of anthologies, with the advantage of the longer format providing a more complex tale, the collection covers the broad range of speculative fiction and fantasy, humour, cynical, romance and lost love. Among these different, well-written stories, different, everyone should find a few favourites.
Ronald Hore, involved with writer's groups for several years, retired from the business world in Winnipeg, MB.
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