Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Review: Shelf Life

I try not to be biased towards a book when I pick it up, but "Introduction by Neil Gaiman" caught my attention. I figured he wouldn't put his name on anything that wasn't good.

I was right. Of course, this anthology includes some names that would jump out anyway - Charles De Lint, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Jack Williamson, Gene Wolfe, Harlan Ellison... The book is actually a reprint, with an original copyright date of 2002, and this particular edition dated 2012. (Limited circulation? I'm not sure. I've certainly missed plenty of good anthologies over the years).

And this one is good. Long time bookstore owner Greg Ketter has put together a bunch of stories that celebrate bookstores in all of their glory and make me regret the fact that the only bookstore in the town I grew up in was a dreary W.H. Smith's. The bookstores in this work, though, are more than that. They're echoes of the archetypal bookstore. Some of them have cats ("The Hemingway Kittens," A.R. Morlan). Some contain books you'll never find anywhere else ("Ballard's Books," Gerald Houarner). Jack William's "Shakespeare & Co" takes you to a future dystopia in which books are forbidden. I really liked Nina Kiriki Hoffman's "Escapes" where the bookstore has, shall we say, a life of its own. I loved "Lost Books" by John J. Miller for reasons I can't reveal without spoilers.

All collections have their week points. I found "I am looking for a book..." by Patrick Weekes wearying and Rick Hautula's horror piece "Non Returnable" decidedly non-scary (horror, like humor, is subjective and your mileage might vary). Typically, I wasn't too keen on the Ellison story that closes out the book, but I didn't even really like "I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream," so that's to be understood and probably not the story's fault.

Overall, though, I'd like to thank Prime Books for getting this one back into print.

Four and a half stars.