Charles de Lint, |
The Newford Stories
(Science Fiction Book Club, 1999)
There's something that needs to be cleared up right off about Charles de Lint's latest offering, The Newford Stories. This isn't a new work. Rather, it's several old (or not-so-old) collections of his unique short stories repackaged in a massive, 844-page three-in-one omnibus volume. Included here are de Lint's groundbreaking Dreams Underfoot (Tor, 1995), The Ivory and the Horn (Tor, 1996) and the recent Moonlight and Vines (Tor, 1998). Rather than rehash the same stories again, I'll focus simply on the unique aspects of this omnibus.
De Lint's novels and short fiction collections have never been skimpy, but the mind boggles at The Newford Stories. At 800-plus pages and 56 stories, plus a smattering of poetry, this tome is a hefty undertaking -- both literally and figuratively. For those unfamiliar with de Lint's unique blend of myth and magic with contemporary society, The Newford Stories offers a comprehensive overview of the work that made him a major name in publishing. Taking place almost exclusively in the fictional contemporary city of Newford (which is someplace in North America, the where being intentionally left vague), de Lint weaves magic and wonder -- and occasionally terror -- into the everyday lives of his characters. It's as fascinating as it is addictive, and it's no wonder why de Lint's short fiction collections -- a form usually anathma to publishers -- are in such high demand. He's one of the few writers whose short work is as eagerly anticipated by his fans as his novels.
Naturally, as with any comprehensive body of work, there are a few stinkers here, but far fewer than you would expect from the sheer numbers of stories presented. And this isn't a book that should be read in one sitting (or even could be, considering it's size). Too much of a good thing tends to dilute the effect, and probably the best way to digest The Newford Stories is to read a few tales interspersed with something else.
Apart from enabling those who missed out on the earlier editions to snap up all three books in one swoop, The Newford Stories also provides an interesting chronology of de Lint's writing: from the very first of his urban fantasies, "Uncle Dobbin's Parrot Fair," in which Newford isn't even yet an inkling; to the contents of Moonlight and Vines, where not only is Newford a fully realized city, but it's one you feel you're well-acquainted with, from the artsy old-world flavor of Lower Crowsea to the bombed-out, crime-infested Tombs. That's quite an accomplishment, but then again, that's quite a body of work.