September 24, 2012

Rabid Reads: “Other Worlds Than These” edited by John Joseph Adams

Other Worlds Than These
edited by John Joseph Adams
Night Shade Books (2012)
400 pages
ISBN 1597804339

Prior to hearing about this anthology, it never really occurred to me just how much I enjoy stories set in alternate worlds. The Wizard of Oz, Stephen King's The Dark Tower, Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials--heck, even Quantum Leap back when I was a kid. It makes sense considering there is already an other-worldliness to the fantasy and science-fiction genres. So with a premise like that, I had to wonder what kinds of worlds would be presented in this anthology.

Things started off on the Moon of all places with Stephen Baxter's "Moon Six." The whole concept of multiple universes converging on a site on the Moon's surface was really intriguing, particularly through the main character's ordeal of being stranded in a universe that was not his own, but the fragmented manner in which the story was told, jumping back and forth in time, just made it too much of a chore to really enjoy.

A highlight from the anthology came a little later from Seanan McGuire's "Crystal Halloway & the Forgotten Passage." It felt like a coming-of-age tale for a teen girl who still regularly visits the fantasy land she discovered at the back of her closet as a little girl. Just a really good story that plucked every heartstring my inner child has.

Where Seanan's story tackled the story of a girl disappearing into a different world, Carrie Vaughn's "Of Swords and Horses" dealt with the parents that are left behind when the child is gone. This one had a nice is-she-or-isn't-she-gone mystery, as the mother tries to come to terms with her fantasy-obsessed daughter vanishing. Everyone else naturally assumes she was abducted, but the mother is sure there is something more it. A tragic bit of storytelling that stood out in this anthology.

All in all, the anthology was about half-and-half with me when it comes to the number of stories I enjoyed. I was surprised by how often I skipped over stories that just didn't hook me or interest me at all, and by extremely accomplished authors to boot. It's the roll of the dice when it comes to anthologies, as it's a mixed bag and not everything is going to resonate. There's definitely a wide variety of stories, between fantasy and sci-fi, and between adventure-oriented and character-oriented. For me, however, it didn't wow me as much as I'd hoped, and many of the worlds showcased are worlds I'm not in any hurry to revisit.

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