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Space Magic by David D. Levine

Space Magic (2008)

by David D. Levine

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
David D. Levine and I are connected, but he doesn't know it. At the only Worldcon I've ever attended (LA Con IV, 2006), Harlan Ellison presented a Hugo Award to Levine for his short story "Tk'tk'tk". The image of Levine leaping for joy into the arms of Harlan Ellison is a bright memory of that wonderful week. That's why I was thrilled to see this collection available as an e-book. I thought I'd enjoy it, and I wasn't disappointed.

There are 15 stories included here, and they demonstrate story-telling skill in fantasy, science fiction, and the in-between. My favorite story in the collection is one of the in-between stories: "The Tale of the Golden Eagle". It spans a large number of years during which the enhanced brain of a golden eagle experiences much, from acting as the sentient control system for a ship to walking around in an android body. It's a 5-star story that originally appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in June of 2003.

Another standout is that Hugo winner - "Tk'tk'tk". A salesman goes to an alien planet to sell inventory management software of all things, and ends up being changed by the experience. Definitely an award quality story, but so was "The Tale of the Golden Eagle".

One more science fiction story I'd like to mention is "At the Twenty-Fifth Annual Meeting of Uncle Teco's Homebrew Gravitics Club". I thoroughly enjoyed this fun story about a convention that takes place annually in Earth orbit. The group that gathers there is made up of people that met each other on the internet years before. Since then the group has grown, and there has been a lot of infighting and water under and over the bridge... this is a great setting, and I wonder if Levine has written any more about these folks.

On the pure fantasy side, there's "The Ecology of Faerie", a very moving story about a sixteen year old girl's encounter with faeries, and "Circle of Compassion", in which a priestess is ordered to send her spirit to an enemy camp to spy. And there's also the lovingly meta "Charlie the Purple Giraffe Was Acting Strangely", in which a purple cartoon giraffe starts to wonder about his readers.

This is a very solid and diverse collection of stories that I enjoyed very much. ( )
1 vote ScottDDanielson | Jan 15, 2015 |
Originally posted at FanLit: http://www.fantasyliterature.com/reviews/space-magic/

Before picking up this story collection, I was only familiar with David D. Levine from a couple of his stories that I??ve read in anthologies. Space Magic sparked my interest because it contains a Hugo Award winning story (ƒ??Tkƒ??Tkƒ??Tkƒ??ƒ?) and because it has recently been released in audio format, read by the author himself.

It rarely happens that I enjoy every story in a collection, but thatƒ??s what happened here. All of these tales are entertaining, I was pleased with the diversity of themes and styles, and I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the audio production. Here are the stories youƒ??ll find in Space Magic.
ƒ??Wind From a Dying Starƒ? ƒ?? (first published in the anthology Bones of the World, 2001) A tribe of post-humans who travel the universe in freeform bodies decides to visit the galaxy that spawned the human race. The Earth is dead, Sol is fizzling out, and the solar winds are dangerous. They need to find an energy source so they can recharge and get away. This sad story is a celebration of ƒ??the headstone of humanity,ƒ? a warning about how we are using our planet and energy resources, and a speculation about the future evolution of the human race.

ƒ??Nucleonƒ? ƒ?? (first published in Interzone, 2001) Looking for inspiration, a concept artist discovers a huge junk yard owned by an old man who seems to be able to find anything his customers need. The two men strike up a years-long friendship and marvel together about the source of the strange junk yardƒ??s power. I loved this sweet story about art, friendship, and wonder. It left me smiling. This was probably my favorite story in Space Magic.

ƒ??I Hold My Fatherƒ??s Pawsƒ? ƒ?? (first published in the magazine Albedo One, 2005)This heart-wrenching story is about a father and son whoƒ??ve been estranged for 20 years but meet again when the father decides to undergo an operation that will turn him into a dog (only in California!). As the two get reacquainted, we learn why the father has made this drastic decision. I cried at the end of this story.

ƒ??Zauberschriftƒ? ƒ?? (first published in the anthology Apprentice Fantastic, 2002) A former magicianƒ??s apprentice is called home to help the villagers deal with a curse thatƒ??s affecting their weather. After a bit of deduction, he realizes that he needs to debug an ancient magic spell.

ƒ??Rewind ƒ?ƒ?? (first published in L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future, Volume 18, 2002) An elite soldier whoƒ??s been designed to be able to rewind time by a few seconds is trying to escape from the U.S. government unit he belongs to. He gets help from a ƒ??terroristƒ? group of citizens. I liked the concept of this exciting story and when it ended I wished there was more. It would make a great novel.

ƒ??Fear of Widthsƒ? ƒ?? (first published in the anthology Land/Space, 2003) In this very short story a man returns to the Midwestern town he grew up in so he can attend his parentsƒ?? funeral. He becomes disturbed that he can see the horizon, something he never notices in Portland, where heƒ??s been living for years. Turns out that heƒ??s right to be nervousƒ??.

ƒ??Brotherhoodƒ? ƒ?? (first published in the anthology Haunted Highways, 2004) Gus and his brother are working in a steel manufacturing plant during the Great Depression and are being paid extra by management to spy on workers who want to unionize. When, due to managementƒ??s negligence, Gus dies on the job his ghost returns to urge his brother to do the right thing. But what is the
right thing?

ƒ??Circle of Compassionƒ? ƒ?? (first published in the anthology Gateways, 2005) In this Oriental-inspired fantasy, a priestess lends her special skills and a piece of magical jewelry to help her besieged village by spying on the enemy and getting civilians and soldiers to safety.

ƒ??Tkƒ??Tkƒ??Tkƒ? ƒ??(first published in Asimovƒ??s, 2005) An interplanetary travelling salesman is so far out of his comfort zone and has such a hard time making a deal with the aliens heƒ??s visiting that he takes a serious look at his profession and the American lifestyle. I love how David Levine made his aliens feel so alien while at the same time the real focus of the story is on rather mundane but essential human concerns. This is the story that won a Hugo Award.

ƒ??Charlie the Purple Giraffe Was Acting Strangelyƒ? ƒ?? (first published in Realms of Fantasy, 2004) This cute story is about a comic book character who realizes that heƒ??s being watched and laughed at by readers. The premise of this story is funny, but what I liked best were the vivid little details that made me actually visualize a comic book while I was reading it. I smiled all the way through. This was another favorite.

ƒ??Falling off the Unicornƒ? ƒ?? (original to this collection) Misty is a teenage girl who shows unicorns and sheƒ??s competing in the Nationals. This story cleverly blends and twists two unrelated clich??s: unicorn-virginity myths and pageant moms. I totally believed it.

ƒ??The Ecology of Faerieƒ? ƒ?? (first published in Realms of Fantasy, 2005) A 16 year old girl whose mother is dying of leukemia discovers that faeries exist, and theyƒ??re not very nice! Because she doesnƒ??t have any support from her parents, she must do her own research to figure out how to get rid of them. This story is disturbing both because of the scary faeries and the leukemia.

ƒ??At the Twenty-Fifth Annual Meeting of Uncle Tecoƒ??s Homebrew Gravitics Clubƒ? ƒ?? (first published in OryCon 25 Souvenir Book, 2003) Old friends from a gravity hacking club reunite at their annual convention and reminisce about the good times and the bad times. This story has a nostalgic feel and lots of cool props.

ƒ??Love in the Balanceƒ? ƒ?? (first published in All-Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories, 2004) Zeppelins and Zombies! This strange steampunk-style story has tons of atmosphere, reminding me a little of the Girl Genius comics and, because of the sentient airships, a little of Isaac Asimovƒ??s I, Robot. Itƒ??s another one that would make an interesting setting for a novel or two. I want to read that.

ƒ??The Tale of the Golden Eagleƒ? ƒ?? (first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, 2003) This fascinating story is a legend about an eagle whose brain is used to guide a spaceship by changing the shape of space. When the spaceship is retired, the eagleƒ??s brain powers an android whose body is made of jewels. ƒ??The Tale of the Golden Eagleƒ? is beautifully written and has lots of cool ideas. It was nominated for a Hugo Award.

The diversity of the stories in Space Magic shows David D. Levineƒ??s broad range of subject matter and his aptitude with many styles and themes. As Levine explains in the afterword, the title ƒ??Space Magicƒ? is intended to convey the point that the collection contains both science fiction and fantasy stories. This title seems too soft, dreamy and nebulous to me. For me it evokes swirly sparkles and rainbows. It doesnƒ??t get across the reality that these stories are vivid, detailed, and sometimes dark and hard-hitting.

I was a bit wary of trying Space Magic on audio because in my experience authors are not usually the best narrators for their own material ƒ?? or anybody elseƒ??s for that matter. There are a few exceptions, with Neil Gaiman being the most obvious. However, I neednƒ??t have worried. In fact, I was surprised at how well Levineƒ??s audiobook turned out. He used a range of pleasant and realistic voices and his cadence was nice. (Youƒ??d think this would be easy for the author to get right, but apparently itƒ??s not). Space Magic is a professional quality audiobook and one I have no trouble recommending both for the stories and the audio production. Iƒ??m looking forward to reading more of David D. Levineƒ??s stories. ( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
Good varied collection of stories, mostly about Sci-Fi but with a bit of Fantasy thrown in. ( )
  Guide2 | Feb 26, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
It's rare that you come across a short story collection where every single story is a finely cut gem, but Levine has produced such a work. Each story feels like a treatment for a full series of books and manage to pull off exactly what the form requires: introduce a new universe, play there, and then rip your heart out with a a style, panache and the lightest of touches. My only problem was that each story left me wanting more.

Up there with Clarke, Ellison, and Bradbury. ( )
  djryan | Jul 29, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Collections are a way for authors to pound their reputation into your head.

I’ve been reading David Levine on and off for almost nine years. He even did one of my favorite stories in this year’s Armored anthology. But it wasn’t until I read this set of science fiction, absurdist, and fantasy tales that I finally have a permanent set of brain cells with favorable associations to his name.

Levine is an author of many different styles. One gets the sense that he’s doing riffs on some classic themes. But it’s not a sense of parody or homage or pastiche or Levine checking off some to-do list of fantastical subgenres. There ‘s too much emotion and playfulness in these stories to feel he’s just doing variations on old masterworks.

“Wind From a Dying Star” is a far future story that has a primitive feel to it akin to the millennia we spent as hunter-gatherers crossed with an elegy for a soon-to-be-dead Earth crossed with transhumanism. Its characters are a nomadic band that inhabit – without any artificial aids – interstellar space. Old John, perhaps the oldest “human” in existence, has heard Earth’s star is dying and wants to visit the “headstone of Humanity” one last time before he dies. The rest of the tribe has to decide whether they will accompany him on this dangerous journey. Surprises await.

“Nucleon” is about a magical junkyard that supplies the heart’s desire – even for a nuclear-powered car.

“I Hold My Father’s Paw” is an emotional story produced in the Levine MixMaster. Here the old human-animal hybrid story is combined with something roughly akin in feel to transexualism. The protagonist gets a message from the father who abandoned his family decades earlier. His father wants to speak to his son one last time before he completes the “transpecies” surgical process which will turn him, mentally and physically, into a dog. Sure, the details of the alternate transpecies lifestyle are interesting, but it is the son dealing with his abandonment, past and future, that is the heart of the story.

I don’t know if Levine invented the magical system of “Zauberschrift”, which places prime importance on the manuscript that records a magic spell, but I found it novel. The plot has a wealthy man being asked by a village to help them after their mage, a man the hero studied under before abandoning magic, has died.

“Rewind” is a clever story of time travel and a tyrannical America. (It seems, in tone, a response to United States’ security measures post-9/11, but a careful reading of the story and the date of its first publication suggests otherwise.) Its hero is a member of an elite military unit who can “rewind”, go back in time a few seconds while preserving their memory of a future that never existed, to win tactical engagements. For personal reasons, he has run afoul of his commander. A price on his head, he finds himself having to throw in with the dissidents he once hunted.

“Fear of Widths” is a light fantasy piece on the anxiety produced in its hero by the wide open skies of Milwaukee!

“Brotherhood” brings a novel setting to a ghost story: 1937 Pittsburgh. Its steel-working hero must decide what to do about the warnings from his dead brother who was killed in a mill accident. Specifically, he must decide whether to continue working as a spy for management against his fellow workers. It was one of my favorite stories here.

“Circle of Compassion” is a Chinese fantasy about battling warlords and a priestess who aids one with the help of a magical bracelet – and her clever solution to a problem at story’s end.

Another story that ends with a protagonist in a potentially deadly trap is “At the Twenty-Fifth Annual Meeting of Uncle Teco’s Homebrew Gravitics Club”. It has a science fiction convention vibe to it except this group are hobbyists who design their own spaceships and power them with gravitics – a technology that regular commercial spaceflight seems to have passed by. Awkward reunions, old animosities, and new romances are played out.

I don’t try to figure out what makes one story an award winner over another. “Tk’Tk’Tk” won a Hugo award, but, while I enjoyed it, it was not my favorite story here. The plot has a human salesman on an alien world he doesn’t understand and detests, his money running out. And then, one day, he actually finds some place where he can be somewhat comfortable.

“Charlie the Purple Giraffe Was Acting Strangely” was another of my favorites. Charlie inhabits a comic strip and trys to warn his fellow characters on the true nature of their world.

“Falling Off the Unicorn”, co-written with Sara A. Mueller, is set in a world like ours except for unicorns. And, of course, where you have unicorns in a story, the matter of sex, virginity specifically, usually crops up. Here the heroine has a pushy stage mom who can, at last, taste victory in their unicorn show competitions. But will the heroine’s new attraction for the unicorn trainer endanger everything?

“The Ecology of Faerie” had a nice undercurrent of menace in the diminishment of frogs croaking its teenage girl protagonist notices around her home. It also favorably reminded me, with its rural setting and its heroine having to deal with a frequently hospitalized mother, of the movie My Neighbor Totoro.

“Love in the Balance” certainly had plenty of action – to say nothing of lots of zombies and zeppelins, but I don’t think I felt the intended emotion at the end of this story. Its hero must decide whether to break political rules and conventions and start a war with a royal house growing in power – and also possibly destroy a zeppelin that hosts an artificial sentience he was once friends with.

“The Tale of the Golden Eagle” was the only story here I had read before, but it’s one of the best. It reminds one, in its tone and the odyssey of golden eagle’s brain used as part of a starship’s cybernetic control system, of a fairy tale and Ann McCaffery’s The Ship Who Sang.

There’s not a bad story here, several good ones, and enough variety suit almost any palate. ( )
  RandyStafford | Mar 11, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I was previously unfamiliar with David Levine's work, and was deeply impressed. This collection of stories was imaginative and moving, unsettling at times, uplifting at others. The stories' emotional depth and occasional rawness make even the stories with surreal premises ("I Hold My Father's Paws") well worth reading. I'll be looking for more by this new-to-me writer - a pleasure to have discovered him.
  michael.fessler | Feb 27, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is a story about a bird. A bird, a ship, a machine, a woman - she was all these things, and none, but first and fundamentally a bird.
It is also a story about a man - a gambler, a liar, and a cheat, but only for the best of reasons.
No doubt you know the famous Portrait of Denali Eu, also called The Third Decision, whose eyes have been described as "two pools of sadness iced over with determination." This is the story behind that painting.
It is a love story. It is a sad story. And it is true.

I was really happy to review this Early Reviewers book, as I have heard a few of David D. Levine's stories read on podcasts, including two of those from this collection, "Wind From a Dying Star" and "Zaubershrift". The beginning of "Tk'Tk'Tk'" seemed familiar too, but the story went off in an entirely different direction than I had expected, so I must have been thinking of another story whose opening a scene featured a human dealing with a very alien shopkeeper.

The stories in this collection are very varied indeed. Apart from the science fiction stories, there are a ghost story about unionisation in 1930s America, a possibly non-genre story about landscaped-induced agoraphobia, cartoon animals who talk using word ballons (the U.S term for speech bubbles?), a village cursed by a defaced grimoire, an ancient Chinese priestess, a rather unusual junkyard, a pony story with unicorns instead of ponies, and a girl who is worried about the the frogs iving outside her house.

The science fiction stories range from near future to more than a million years in the future, and includes tales of biotechnology, a convention held in a hotel in near-earth orbit, time-travelling soldiers, a travelling salesman far from home, rivalries between floating cities, a bird-brained spaceship, and a tribe of post-humans travelling between stars under their own power.

As I said earlier, very varied and also very enjoyable. My favourites were "Tk'Tk'Tk'", "Circle of Compassion" and "The Ecology of Faerie", while I wasn't so keen on "I Hold My Father's Paws" and "Fear of Widths". ( )
  isabelx | Feb 26, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I'm a bit torn on this book. To me they are science fiction stories - yet they aren't. I would suggest that the settings for the stories are based in science fiction and fantasy. However, the actual stories come across as dealing with standard life themes. The were a few hits and a few misses.

My favorites include: Nucleon, Rewind, Charlie the Purple Giraffe was acting strangely, and The Tale of the Golden Eagle. The ones I felt were lacking were: Falling of the Unicorn and I hold My Fathers Paws. The rest were middle of the road.

Its a decent collection and worth a look - I just wasn't overly wowed over. ( )
  Spiceca | Feb 21, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This was a pleasant collection of short stories. Most of them would be classified as science fiction, but the assortment includes a couple of fantasy pieces and a couple more that defy easy categorization. That's nice. Most of the stories, too, are indeed short, easily digestible, and constructed around a single "what if?"-type scenario. In short, they're creative and fun to read.

They aren't all of uniform quality, and of course there are some stories that I would rate higher than others, but I thought that the selections were good overall. I particularly liked "Nucleon", "I Hold My Father's Paws", "Rewind", and "Tk'Tk'Tk"; on the other hand, "Falling off the Unicorn" and "At the Twenty-Fifth Meeting..." stand out as disappointments. Of course, opinions will vary. ( )
  baroquem | Feb 19, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I enjoyed this book. Some of the stories were scary, but not too scary. There was the supernatural element in most of them. Often the narrator was a teenager or young adult, and that was refreshing. The stories are interesting and varied. Characters are engaging. ( )
  jaelquinn | Feb 16, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
(I received this book in electronic format via the Early Reviewers program.)

I've read so far a handful of stories in this book, and I'm extremely pleased. Finally, some GREAT writing! The style is reminiscent of Bradbury. Looking forward to reading the remaining stories. ( )
  GustavoG | Feb 11, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This was a very satisfying set of stories. I enjoyed every single one, even the ones I didn't really care for. It was an eclectic mix of pure SiFi and Sword and Sorcerer stories, exactly the type of stories I really like. I liked this collection so much that I went looking for more stories by David Levine and have a nice "pack" of them to read in the next few weeks.
  alanbethcam | Feb 6, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A collection of short stories of different styles, from science fiction to fantasy, ghost stories, wizard stories in historical settings, etc.

Most stories have very interesting ideas behind them and I particularly liked Tk'Tk'Tk, which is almost like going for a drink at the bar in Star Wars. ( )
  kinsey_m | Jan 27, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is probably the best collection of short stories I have ever read. While not all of the stories were of particular interest to me, they are all well written. David Levine has succeeded in creating 15 completely unique universes. That is not to say that his stories occur with simply different histories but the same themes or character types. The stories range from simple things like a unicorn rodeo to creatures who exist in the voids of space and consume energy who visit earth as it is about to die; to ships with bird brains that allow them to travel faster than light. This is an amazing collection of ideas and stories. Levine is able to create 15 varied and imaginative universes that will have you dreaming of other stories which might come to pass in these universes. ( )
  trevordueck | Jan 27, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
When you open the cover on this book, you are entering a world of fantasy. The stories in this collection travel in time, have weird creatures and hold a touch of dystopian woven in them. There are none alike and all entertain.

Book View Cafe and Library Thing gave me the opportunity read this ebook for review (thank you). You can buy it now here: Space Magic The individual stories are available, too, if you'd prefer to just taste the work. I enjoyed reading them all.

My favorite (which should surprise no one) is The Ecology of Faerie. This is not a nice story, but it charmed me. The faerie was evil and the girl in the story figured out how to get rid of her. Be careful of creatures who walk in the night...

I also enjoyed Zauberschrift. It's about the death of a wizard and the bad things that are happening to the village. When the failed apprentice is called back by his sister, he never expects to find what he does.

There is a mix of space stories, ghosts, paranormal and more in this selection of stories. They all had an ironic touch, which I like. They're not boring.

Mr. Levine has a good imagination and you feel he's lived in these worlds he creates. It's a good read, why not snag a copy?

Happy reading. ( )
  bkfaerie | Jan 25, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A fine collection of short stories, a mixture of science fiction and fantasy.
I'm not a great lover of short stories but I enjoyed these, Tk Tk Tk and Nucleon are particularly well written and compelling. I'll be looking out for other books by this author in the future ( )
  neurokarma | Jan 24, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A good short story is hard to find, and in this collection, David delivers several excellent stories. I especially liked Tk'Tk'Tk', The Ecology of Faerie and Rewind, but several of the others were good too. The least favourite for me is probably Fear of Widths.

The variation is great, from hard SF to the young adult faery story of The Ecology of Faerie. All in all, I would recommend this for pretty much anyone. ( )
  khrister | Jan 23, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
An impressively varied and original mix of short stories. I particularly enjoyed the tale of the golden eagle, wind from a dying star, and the ecology of faerie. I find short story collections can be a bit hit-and-miss, often they are little more than a set of weak ideas that fail to grab the readers interest. That is not the case here. The author succeeds in creating captivating scenarios and intriguing plots. Having said that, there are a couple of duds, falling off the unicorn being the worst. ( )
  eclecticdodo | Jan 19, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I am always looking for a good short-stories book. Often I find that today's short-stories books contain 1 great story, maybe 1 or 2 good ones and most of the others are not good at all. Probably because publishing companies discourage author's from writing short stories, so few of them do. Hoping that with e-books becoming more popular, authors will collect some of their short stories and publish them in electronic format. Now I completely digress.

I really enjoyed reading all short stories in Space Magic. David Levine stories are varied little worlds of wonder waiting to entertain us. I found myself smiling at the end of some stories, like I do when I read the few short stories written by my favorite authors. I look forward to find more stories written by him. He certainly knows how to write a great short story.

Below are individual ratings of the short stories in the book.
Wind from a Dying Star (4 stars)
Nucleon (5 stars)
I Hold My Father's Paws (3 stars)
Zauberschrift (4 stars)
Rewind (5 stars)
Fear of Widths (2 stars)
Brotherhood (3 stars)
Circle of Compassion (5 stars)
Tk'Tk'Tk (5 stars)
Charlie the Purple Giraffe Was Acting Strangely (3 stars)
Falling Off the Unicorn (2 stars)
The Ecology of Faerie (5 stars)
At the Twenty-Fifth Annual Meeting of Uncle Teco's Homebrew Gravitics Club (4 stars)
Love in the Balance (3 stars)
The Tale of the Golden Eagle (5 stars) ( )
1 vote edjane | Jan 17, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Space Magic is a great collection of short stories that range from Sci-fi, to fantasy to magical realism and have as common denominator the talent to depict a world and the characters in a vivid, living way.
These are my preferred types of stories: the ones that are concerned with people and emotions, the ones that made you care for the characters and share their feelings.
My preferred ones are: "Charlie the Purple Giraffe Was Acting Strangely" with its bitter-sweet and perfect final phrase; "I Hold My Father’s Paws", that made me cry, and "Nucleon", a great example of magical realism, but every single story is charming and unique in its own way.
I'd like to read a longer versions of "Rewind" (a dystopian story with an interesting variation of the time travels) and of "Zauberschrift", a fantasy world that reminds a little Le Guin's Earthsea Saga.
I'm really glad to have discovered (thanks to LT Early Review) a new author that I'll follow definitely. ( )
  Luisali | Jan 16, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Let’s first say that I have not read such a good book of short stories for a long time.

As underlined by the previous reviews, Levine masters the tropes of a wide range of genres, from quasi-hard Sci-Fi to pure Fantasy, and lots of things in the middle. This collection covers a lot of ground, which allows each story to be unique, while echoing with the others.

What Levine brings to these genres, and what makes each of these stories gripping is that the characters are more deeply human, with flesh, fears and joys, that is the case in the usual productions of the genre. While the fantastic element is most of the time useful, these stories are driven by deep human feeling. Thus, they escape the twin pitfalls of the cold illustration of a thesis or the colourful but flat exploration of a fantasy world.

My only regret is the introduction, which advises the reader to start with the award-winning “Tk’Tk’Tk” story. I beg to disagree. I find this to be the less interesting part of the book. While in each other story, the fantastic of SciFi element brings something important to the story, aliens and planet are just completely useless here. This story’s setting is so obviously a depiction of late XIXth or early XXth century China or Japan that I fail to understand why Levine chose to bring aliens in the picture. Actually, I fail to understand it as anything but a jab at SciFi fans who would not have read the same story if set in a credible historical setting, which would make it a not-so-clever play with the rules of the genre.

[Edit : I asked the author - @daviddlevine - on Twitter, and he indicated I was over-interpreting. The story is about being a stranger in a strange land. My disliking this particular story it is a matter of personal taste. Bonus points to David D. Levine for engaging with reader that openly.]

The previous paragraph notwithstanding, I warmly recommend the book to anyone who is moved by such authors as Bradbury of Le Guinn. ( )
  MathieuPerona | Jan 11, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
David Levine is one of those writers who is both writer and fan (he's a regular attendee at SF conventions), so he's certainly well marinated in all the tropes of the genre. This is clearly illustrated by the sheer variety of the 15 stories in this welcome collection, which include in their number several award winners, including the Hugo-winning "Tk'Tk'Tk". I'd read several of these stories before, but several were new to me, and are well up to the standard of those more familiar. Levine is equally comfortable in the worlds of Fantasy and SF, often blending elements of each. Plot summaries of short stories are the worst kind of spoiler, so I won't give any here, but if you enjoy SF and Fantasy stories which never retread the same ground twice, and which cover a dazzling array of genre tropes, yet usually from a fresh perspective, this fine collection is for you! ( )
  pvincent | Jan 4, 2013 |
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