Review: Dreaming Again Edited By Jack Dann

Dreaming Again is lovingly crafted from submissions edited by Jack Dann. You can tell from his introduction that this truly was a labor of love. Some of the stories are bitter-sweet, most are creepy, all are speculative fiction. I’ll admit to putting the book down half-way through. Not that I didn’t enjoy the stories, but more because my personal preferences run toward full-length novels, preferably series. Short fiction gives me just enough time to become committed and then, like the bad one night stand, leaves me frustrated and wanting more.

The stories include some from John Birmingham, Trudi Canavan, Sara Douglass, Margo Lanagan, Garth Nix, and a previously unpublished work from A. Bertram Chandler. Maybe I’m a naughty fiction reader but the only ones I recognize are Trudi Canavan and Sara Douglass; Ms. Douglass is the only author who’s work I’ve experienced previously.

My favorite of the ones I read was Sean McMullen’s “The Constant Past”. Maybe I just have a thing for librarians, but one who can stop a time-travelling serial killer is one that has my interest. “This Is My Blood” by Ben Francisco and Chris Lynch, about a world-hopping missionary, seriously creeped me out and I’m still wondering whether the main character survived her ordeal.

Angela Slatters “The Jacaranda Wife” is an Australian fairy tale that just happens to have been written recently instead of hundreds of years ago. I didn’t even bother to try to make sense of Lucy Sussex’s “Robots & Zombies, Inc.” because the forward described the story as one side of a conversation- a taped interview missing the questions. After the first couple of lines, I couldn’t make sense of it so I gave up.

Overall, I do intend to eventually finish the short stories contained in Dreaming Again. I think I’ll need to take them in small doses, preferably not just before bed. (I told you they were creepy.) The tales so far have been of high quality, being extremely well written. I think I’ll take a break with something from my usual genre, and then I’ll be ready to tackle the second half.

Here’s a short recap of the ones I did read:

Old Friends (Garth Nix)- Intriguing. Left me feeling like I missed a large chunk of the story, which I think is part of what the author wanted.

A Guided Tour in the Kingdom of the Dead (Richard Harland) – Basically just creepy, and didn’t make a lot of sense to me.

This is My Blood (Ben Francisco and Chris Lynch) – Made my flesh creep, but I liked it. Definitely left me wanting more.

Nightship (Kim Westwood) – Futuristic pirate gender-bender where sex is assigned based on your job/role. Interesting, but the one peek was enough for me, thanks.

The Fooly (Terry Dowling) – Creepy ghost story for creepy little ghosties. An interesting twist.

Neverland Blues (Adam Browne) – Made me sad/pitying. Makes me wonder just how twisted this author’s mind is.

The Jacaranda Wife (Angela Slatter) – The Grimm fairy tale that is only not included because it hadn’t yet been written.

The Constant Past (Sean McMullen) – My favorite of the lot, about a time travelling serial killer and the librarian who thwarts him.

The Forest (Kim Wilkins) – Scary retelling of Hansel and Gretel, with some insightful social commentary.

Robots & Zombies, Inc (Lucy Sussex) – Gave up on this one two lines in. Too confusing to read, but I thought it was an interesting format to try.

The Way to The Exit (Sara Douglass) – A historical paradox. Shows Douglass’ continuing love affair with London.

Grimes and the Gaijin Daimyo (A. Bertram Chandler) – Hadn’t read anything by this author before; I’m thinking I’ll look him up. Sad that he’s gone before I got a chance to “meet” him and his characters.

Lure (Paul Collins) – Scarily realistic tale of an avatar-killing virus and the social repercussions of investing too much time in a virtual world.

Empire (Simon Brown) – I liked the flash-back appeal of this story, even though I’ve never been fond of Martians.

Lakeside (Christopher Green) – Just creepy. Could have done without it.

Troll’s Night Out (Jenny Blackford) – Too short. I liked it. The afterward that told how the idea occurred to the author was almost as entertaining as the story itself.

[xrr rating=2.25/5]