October 26, 2011

BOOKS: Happily Ever After (John Klima, ed., 2011)

Here we have an anthology of fairy-tale retellings. It's a reprint anthology with only one story original to this book (and about half of the stories come from the superb Datlow/Windling series of fairy-tale books from about 20 years ago), but the stories are well chosen and it's an entertaining overview of the last two decades in fairy tales.

I particularly liked Josh Rountree's "Chasing America," which places Paul Bunyan against some mythic moments in American culture/history; Wil McCarthy's high-tech Alice update, "He Died That Day, in Thirty Years;" and Robert J. Howe's "Pinocchio's Diary" (the one original story), which brings some of the more disturbing subtext of the original closer to the surface without ever quite making anything explicit.

Hit-to-miss ratio is very high here; I only found two or three outright clunkers. Worst of the bunch are Paul Di Filippo's "Ailoura," a Puss in Boots variation that ends by suggesting both bestiality and incest (ick); and Robert Coover's ponderous, glum Pied Piper sequel, "The Return of the Dark Children."

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