Contented Reader

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Book review: Paradise Tales

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Paradise Tales

Geoff Ryman

Small Beer Press

Genetically modified cats want to eat your children, but the future is nevertheless bright

Geoff Ryman’s writing is literary, his ideas are innovative, and the worlds he creates are complex and chaotic and joyful.  He sees how deeply people are influenced by their technologies and surroundings, and how fundamentally people remain the same despite them.  His stories are compassionate and healing.

The stories in this collection are of two types.  There are stories of the future, many of which imagine the effects of new technologies and new solutions to problems, the changes they cause, the ways they affect the messy lives of human beings.   I liked “Warmth,” the autobiography of a boy raised by a distant mother and an artificially loving computer program, and “VAO,” in which a retired security programmer living in a sterile and oppressive retirement home tries to identify the senior citizens who are manipulating ubiquitous security systems to commit violent crimes.

There are also stories of the present and past, fantasy stories several of are set in Cambodia, which was the setting of Ryman’s gorgeous The King’s Last Song.  My favorites were “Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter,” in which the title character is haunted by the ghosts of her father’s many victims, and “The Last Ten Years of the Hero Kai,” which starts with The Ten Rules of Heroism and slowly moves toward a  perfect climax I wouldn’t dream of spoiling for you.

And then there’s “No Bad Thing,” in which the vampire Albert Einstein applies for work at a biotech company.  It’s an odd story which doesn’t quite seem to fit with the other tales, but so much fun I wouldn’t dream of asking for it to be left out.

I love this collection.  Ryman’s writing is beautiful and evocative, even haunting, and the stories, while all very different from each other, seem to have a unity of vision.


Written by Contented Reader

July 19, 2011 at 7:20 am

Posted in Reviews


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