This is DeChancie's first short story collection. In the introduction, he talks about being primarily a novelist, who only recently has come to short fiction. It is a specialty that suits him, based on this collection. And the collection format suits him as well; the stories in the book benefit from being together. Several are stories I've read in other anthologies, where they tended to be odd bumps in the otherwise even flow of stories. This is because DeChancie's worldview is slightly skewed, as if he's approaching the world sideways from the normal view.
In this collection, you begin to see the world according to DeChancie, appreciate the subtleties and wry wit he brings to his fiction. And just as you notice the erudition, he slaps in a bit of burlesquerie, as if to mock both himself and the world.
It really works, in this collection. One of the stories originally appeared in the PARSEC fanzine (duly credited); while it's not the strongest story in the book, it gains layers of depth from its position here.
My favorite story is 'Spellchucker': a very different sort of story about a young would-be wizard's progress through the red tape of organized wizardry. Some of the stories are fantasy, some science-fiction; most of them conclude with a twist that brings you up short, makes you re-examine your assumptions.
And then there's the exception (to prove the rule?); 'Slow Dance for a Dead Princess' is gentle, moving, and one of the most insightful comments I've read on a very public tragedy.
So go buy this book, because it's interesting and entertaining and thought-provoking. Even when he misses (I didn't say every story was perfect; I still don't like 'Death and Transfiguration'), DeChancie incorporates ideas, and does it with style and a classy vocabulary.
And his introduction is worth the price of the book by itself.
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