Tanith Lee is one of my favorite authors, and this collection showcases some of the diversity and mastery of her talents.
My only complaints: #1. it’s too short! 😉 #2. the longest piece in the book (nearly half the volume) was previously published (in ‘The Vampire Sextette’), so I’d already read it, and #3 it’s from a small-press publisher, making it rather hard to get. I completely fail to understand why, after years of success with mainstream publishers, Lee is apparently no longer seeing interest from them.
Where All Things Perish – This is, stylistically, a recreation of a 19th-century ghost story/weird tale. The events which happened in a certain house, long since abandoned, have had repercussions, leaving an entire town tainted and barren. But the reasons, and the fault, are not those one might expect. Lee presents her case with a delicate eerieness and sympathy.
Midday People – Again, Lee turns expectations on their head. Rather than fearing things that go bump in the night, perhaps there’s a reason why those in sunny climes take a midday siesta. A modern-day woman tourist caught in an unhappy marriage encounters the beautiful people who mysteriously only appear at midday, and believes they will help her escape her life…
Cold Fire – Told in a thick fisherman’s argot, this brief tale describes the fate of a ship ordered to tow a mysterious iceberg as far north as they can. Again, danger and betrayal come from not quite the quarters expected.
Crying in the Rain – Set in a post-apocalyptic world where the lucky live under domes, and the poor try as best they can to avoid carcinogenic toxins and radiation, here, Lee tells a heartwrenching tale of what a mother will do to try to secure a better life for her children.
We All Fall Down – An apocalypse of roses.
The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald – Taking Fitzgerald’s phrase literally, Lee creates a plague story. In order for the parasitic virus to most effectively transmit itself, the disease has the effect of first making its victims gorgeous, fit, and healthy. Of course, these effects are temporary.
The Isle is Full of Noises – This was the story I had previously read. At first, I was disappointed to encounter a re-read, but I actually enjoyed the piece much more the second time through. The structure is somewhat complicated, telling two parallel stories, one of which is purportedly the fiction of another character. It also makes commentary on and references colonial fiction. Coming upon it for a second time, I didn’t have to ‘figure it out’ – I was more prepared to concentrate on the strange beauty of Lee’s imagery, and I think I appreciated its construction far more.