My review of “50 Stories 50”: Something for Everyone

The flash review:
Fifty stories. Two short of a full deck. Which cards are missing?
Not the wild ones, that’s for sure.

The micro review:
Reading this book is a bit like having a traveling storyteller show up at your door. You try to say, “I gave at the office” or something equally inane, but he just begins telling a story. You have a lot of things to do, but somehow you decide to put them all off. You just sit there listening to this stranger. As soon as he ends one story, he begins another.

After a while, reality starts to blur. You can’t tell if that voice is inside or outside your head. Are you really sitting here alone, imagining the storyteller, talking to yourself? In that case, you might be crazy.

But on the plus side, you’re a lot more talented than even your mom ever thought.

The short review:
As promised, this is a grab bag of all kinds of fiction: short, shorter and shortest. It’s structured something like a concerto, starting with very short pieces, expanding in the middle to traditional short story length, then ending snappily with some more ultra-shorts. There’s fantasy, science fiction, literary surrealism, Westerns of a sort, fairy tales both fractured and sweetly whole, and possibly some new genres that I could identify if I were an expert in the field–think of finding out that bug you just flicked out the window was an entirely new species and would have made you famous. There’s one story that’s like Riddley Walker meets Billy the Kid. Another one reads like Beowulf transposed to a football field. Yet another, written from the point of view of an artificial intelligence, takes you on a journey way past the Third Law of Robotics. Then there’s a fairy tale that might have come straight from someone’s great-grandmother sitting by an Eastern European hearth.

It’s easy to read quite a few of these at one sitting, though you risk having a kind of mild hallucinogenic effect set in, possibly similar to the kick Sheridan Le Fanu got from drinking green tea. If you disregard this, the effects might build to the point where all of a sudden, you’re riding on a unicorn and swapping stories with Randolph Carter, without really feeling that anything out of the ordinary is going on. It might be better to read and savor these stories one at a time, with world and time in between, but I couldn’t do it that way.

Of course, I liked some stories more than others. There were a few where I could have done with more resolution in the ending, for instance. But with this collection, if you find something you don’t care for, you can always just move on to the next story…and the next.

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