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Dreams of Distant Shores (2016)

by Patricia A. McKillip

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What can I say? It's Patricia A. McKillip. Any of us who know her abilities to create new worlds with just a few words is in for a wonderful surprise. Even though these are short stories, I still recommend setting aside time to read each one in its entirety. They are definitely not lunchtime reading material, as I found out!

The variety of stories here are good, though most are set in modern eras and several are set in small, seaside villages. One is set in an artist's garrett in London (perhaps?) and another in a mansion with a motor car. And a driver. But there is a Mer who was a goddess and traveled to the Americas; another explains the monster at the door to the bathroom as, well, something that must be explained. And the final story, "Something Rich and Strange", has a creepy story about who lives in the sea. Really lives, and has seen the whales and mollusks live and die. And go on dying. Its message is also as chilling.

Recommended for all of her fans, or those who are not ready for her journeys in her longer books. And for any who just love language for its own sake. ( )
  threadnsong | Apr 13, 2017 |
This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Booklikes & Librarything and linked at Goodreads & Mobileread by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Dreams of Distant Shores
Series: ----------
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 290
Format: Digital Edition


Synopsis:

A collection of short stories and a novella showcasing McKillip's writing style and preferred story content.

My Thoughts:

The majority of this book is taken up with the novella, Something Rich and Strange. I read that back in '05 and wasn't very impressed then and this time around nothing improved. That is the reason for the 1 Star deduction.

Now, the rest of the stories, they were excellent. They were what I EXPECT from McKillip. My favorite was about an artist who draws the Gorgon's mouth and it becomes his muse, until it convinces him to fall in love with a real life girl who then becomes his true muse. Not being an artsy guy myself, most of the time I poo-poo stories dealing with art. However, this story, appropriately entitled The Gorgon in the Cupboard, drew me in and made the artist character sympathetic enough that even I was able to like him. The counter-story about the woman who becomes his muse, is poignantly sad and heartwrenching and provides a sad canvas upon which a happy story is drawn.

The Forward by Peter Beagle I could have done without. I am not a fan of Beagle, so his musings on meeting McKillip at various times came across as self-serving and very faux-humble.

If I ever read this again, I'll just skip the novella and concentrate on the short stories.

★★★★☆ ( )
1 vote BookstoogeLT | Mar 28, 2017 |
This contains five short stories, two novellas and a short essay "Writing High Fantasy".

I'd read both the novellas before, but they're McKillip at her best so I was happy to revisit them. I actually liked "Something Rich and Strange" more this time. Perhaps knowing where the story was heading meant I connected with it more easily. It’s still the poetry of the language which appeals to me the most, but not just because the story contains some lovely sentences. The way it captures the coastal community where Megan and Jonah live, their relationships with art and their relationships with the sea, is vivid and evocative.

"The Gorgon in the Cupboard" involves a painting who begins to talk - the gorgon in the cupboard - and inspires a young painter to paint Medusa. It’s a story about seeing - about seeing things as they really are. It’s beautifully written, quietly thought-provoking and hopeful. I loved it.

The short stories were all a little weird. My favourite was one called "Weird". A couple are sheltering in a bathroom and she tries to answer his question of “What’s the weirdest thing that ever happened to you?” ( )
  Herenya | Jan 18, 2017 |
My favorite story out of this collection was "Something Rich and Strange". ( )
  marysneedle | Aug 13, 2016 |
I've talked about my List plenty of times, that list of authors I always followed long before Goodreads and LibraryThing made it so easy to do so. Patricia McKillip is someone I discovered in grade school. What my elementary school library was doing with a copy of [book:The Forgotten Beasts of Eld] I don't know; I haven't read it since then, but my sense-impression is that it was a little beyond that level. I'll have to read it again soon to find out. I remember loving it, with a sort of uneasy feeling that there were things in there that I wasn't quite ready for at that age.

Anyway. McKillip is a beautiful writer. I can't put my finger on why she isn't one of my absolute favorites, but there's no denying that her prose is absolutely lovely. There are a lot of books that fade quickly from memory, but with this collection it only took reading the story titles for each tale to come flooding back in full technicolor. Dreams of Distant Shores is a collection of nine stories which – as stories in collections will – range from completely wonderful to … just fine. (I think I finally put my finger on one reason I am not very fond of short story collections, beside the fact that they are rarely consistent in quality: There are no solutions provided in short stories. Maybe I'm shallow, but … often I like solutions in my fiction.)

And these tales are:

"Weird" – which is. It's short, and it's disconcerting, and it's suspenseful – partly because you're hanging on to every word trying to figure out what on earth is going on. Loved it.

"Mer" – is the tale of a witch making her way through the world and time, apparently oblivious to the results of her actions on the mundane populace around her. It was a little distant, in a way, but nice.

"The Gorgon in the Cupboard" was far and away my favorite. The story of an artist and his muse, and true love, was everything I could ask for, but don't usually ask for because I'm not going to get it. It was so good. I have felt deep empathy for Medusa since I first read her full story – she was wronged. She was so badly wronged.

"I go where I’m invited. Where I am invoked. When I hear my name in someone’s heart, or in a painting or a poem, I exist there. The young thug Perseus cut my head off. But he didn’t rid the world of me. I’ve stayed alive these thousands of years because I haven’t been forgotten. Every time my name is invoked and my power is remembered anew, then I live again, I am empowered."

"Which Witch" gives "Gorgon" a run for its money as favorite. I would be delighted to read a full novel – a series! – centered around this band of witches (a band as in a collective, and also a band as in people who make music together). Where "Gorgon" was complete in and of itself and made me happy as a discrete unit, with this story I want more. I so very much want more. Please?

"Edith and Henry Go Motoring" is also odd, and oddly poignant. I honestly don't know what else to say about it – I was baffled, it was excellent, and I liked it.

"Alien" is the story of a grandmother whose family assumes she's succumbing to dementia because she talks about having met aliens and how she is waiting for them to come back… but is she? - and I enjoyed it thoroughly. It had the feeling I've begun to associate with McKillip again of a sweet sadness.

We watched the stars, wanting and not wanting strangeness, change, danger. Wanting and not wanting aliens.

The last and longest story, "Something Rich and Strange", started out beautiful – I loved it … but I loved it less and less as it went on and on. It became a heavy-handed ecological story (the sea is angry about all the abuse it's taken at human hands). It's beautiful throughout, as is inevitable with McKillip's work, but just too long after the rest of the book, and just … overly overt, and a little wearying.

That was the last story, but the last piece was the essay "Writing High Fantasy", a rather informal and entertaining exploration of … what it says on the tin. Excellent. I didn't agree with all of it (or, at least not with Jung), but – excellent.

There is no question that Patricia McKillip belongs on, will forever stay on, my List. Like the ocean explored in "Rich and Strange", there are depths, darkness and light, and strange beings here. "The fierce, underlying point of all the froth and bother" … wow.

"To invent a convincing love potion you must, for a moment, make even the reader fall in love."

"What was that old tale about a ship? A flying ship?"
"The USS Enterprise?"
Heh.

The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review. ( )
  Stewartry | Aug 2, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Patricia A. McKillipprimary authorall editionscalculated
Canty, ThomasCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Dave, for so many reasons.
With thanks to Susan Allison, Jonathan Strahan, and Terrin Windling for inspiring, respectively, the Gorgon, the Crow, and the Sea Hare... And very special thanks to Jacob Weisman for keeping track of my work and putting it in order.
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