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Science fiction: 3 new short story collections worth reading

* 3-sci-fi-works.jpgBritish artist and graphic novelist Dave McKean is probably best known for many collaborations with his friend Neil Gaiman. Here he turns the tables on nine distinguished writers: Instead of illustrating their stories, he's invited them to write original tales inspired by his evocative and often surrealistic paintings, reproduced in a muted palette of browns and blacks.

In one of the best stories, Alastair Reynolds describes a far future, thousand-night-long reunion of all the different "lines" that humanity has evolved into. In another, Catherynne M. Valente sets up a murder mystery in Nowhere, a Dante-inspired city in the afterlife where murder should be impossible. Joe Hill's oddly moving tale is of a poor and lonely teenager who befriends a nearly obsolete robot in a grim, polluted future.

Of Gaiman's two contributions, the most substantial is a delightful trickster creation myth involving a monkey-god. Maria Dahvana Headley explores loneliness through the figure of an 11th-century female golem, while M. John Harrison offers a creepy fable of a recovering heart patient haunted by a mysterious figure. Of McKean's own two contributions, one is the graphic story that gives the book its title, and the other, tracing the life of a dreaming boy through adulthood, is prose, but with some clever typographical tricks. Throughout the collection, the dialogue between art and fiction is fascinating.

9th January 2018

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