Thursday, May 21, 2020

The Postutopian Adventures of Darger and Surplus

The Postutopian Adventures of Darger and Surplus is a collection of shorter fiction by Michael Swanwick. Released 30th April 2020 by Subterranean Press, it's 200 pages and available in limited edition (signed and numbered) hardcover, and ebook formats.

I've always had a particular fondness for collections/anthologies because short fiction is spare and technically challenging, so you get a better feel for an author's expertise with the form. Short fiction is less of a time commitment as well, so if one story is not working for you, there's another piece readily available in a few pages. This one is a sort of Fafhrd/Mouser homage (with a con man whose sidekick is an anthropomorphic canine - living and carrying out their confidence tricks in a dystopian post-apocalyptic world). There are 9 stories in all (5 novellas and 4 vignettes). All of them have a line from Mother Goose as titles, lending the whole an offbeat whimsical appeal.

The stories themselves are well written, but caveat emptor: the author never met a cheap pun or double entendre he didn't take home and write down. If sophomoric jokes make you groan and roll your eyes in irritation, this one probably won't be a good fit.  On the other hand, the author's Hugo winning entry is reprinted here (The Dog Said Bow-Wow). Mr. Swanwick knows his way around narrative fiction. They're clever and funny and sometimes touching. I will admit that they're not everyone's cup of tea, but they were a definite treat to read. The book includes a lot of inside info and background provided by the author which is nearly always one of my favorite parts to read. Neil Gaiman is another author who provides really good information about characters' genesis and his story ideas, Ray Bradbury did, Asimov often did, and this author does as well.

Well written and diverting, this is one for speculative fiction fans. It'll sit very well with the steampunk and adventure folks.

Four stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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