My database tells me I’ve read a Michael Swanwick novel, Griffin’s Egg. I don’t recall it in the slightest, but yes, there it is, on my shelf – a very slim book I now remember owning, but not reading. As far as my memory goes, the only Swanwick I’ve read is a couple of technically adept but not enthralling relatively recent stories. I keep hearing his name, so I picked this book up to remedy my ignorance. I read it in tandem with a Piers Anthony book figuring they would balance each other out. They did – neither of them was good.
I’m somewhat at a loss to understand why Swanwick has been nominated for and won so many awards. The book doesn’t have an auspicious start. Swanwick’s introduction gradually dips from description into light braggadocio before resurfacing. The stories here are competent, but often thin. Nothing about them stands out – not the style, not the concepts, not the characters. Some of the prose is clumsy. Several of them make only a thin stab at emotional depth.
All that said, the best stories were:
- 3 A.M. in the Mesozoic Bar – the dinosaurs weren’t the only ones to go. Simple, but well done.
- The Woman Who Shook the World Tree – an unusual love story. One of the few stories that surprised me.
- Pushkin the American – arguing exactly that. One of the few in which Swanwick doesn’t go for the easy ending.
- An Empty House – love across dimensions. It starts poorly, but ends well.
All in all a collection that will likely please Swanwick fans, but won’t make any new ones.