Take one Carol Award finalist author, mix in 22 different speculative stories, and what do you get? A great recipe for fun.
In Odd Little Miracles, Fred Warren brings a smorgasboard of speculative short stories including science fiction, fantasy, and high adventure. He’ll keep your mind happily dancing through his imaginative worlds. From a space non who lost her arm to Aliens who have offers too good for humans to refuse, to a cutesy girl who wants to become sidekick to an evil wizard, Warren runs the gamut of speculative stories.
The stories are of varying lengths. There are five longer stories that take up the greatest portion of the book with most of the remaining seventeen being almost flash fiction in length.
The five longest stories are the crown jewels of the book:
“Rubes”-A circus finds itself stranded in a hick town where everyone pays to come to their show, but seems mostly non-plussed, particularly when it comes to the freak show. This was a thought-provoking tale that left me wanting to know more when the chapter ended.
“Come You Back to Mandalay”: This one was definitely out of the box. Set in the 1930s, it tells the story of two men on a hunt for the world’s deadliest creative. This was extremely suspenseful and may have been the best told story in the book.
“A Taste of Honey”-A photographer gets more than he bargained for when he stops in at a honey concession at the fair, as he finds himself drawn to the woman who runs it, whose relationship with the bees is extremely simpatico. This story was very haunting.
“All Things Seen and Unseen”-Nuns have formed a space search and rescue order. Sister Claudia is determined to prove that a space tour company has committed illegal acts that endangered innocent lives. In the process, she disobeys orders and loses her arm, thus ending her career in space rescue. Claudia struggles with self-doubt and confusion about her future through much prayer until God steps in and lends a hand.
“The Silver Tree”-On a planet that has cut itself off from technology in order to be safe from its influences, a young couple uncover some things that are considered by the Elders to be too much like the technology they fled from. This one really took some pretty drastic turns.
The shorter stories were a bit of a mixed bag. Probably my favorites from among those are the satirical “Angel Wings,” the ironic “Chamber of Doors,” the surprising “A Quiet Afternoon at the Alabaster County Ladies,” and the Twilight-zone like “Sick to Death.”
My two least favorite stories in the collection were “The Devil’s Temp” and “Time Share.” The Devil’s temp imagines the Devil having to hire a temp so he can make a presentation. It was an interesting concept, but it didn’t really go anywhere. “Time Share” was based on the idea of a man who killed someone being forced to share his body with the person’s mind. This one didn’t work for me because the specific case covered in the story was so outlandish I couldn’t buy it.
Overall, though, this was a fun read that showcased Warren’s versatility and talent, and will be sure to provide any good reader of speculative fiction hours of fun.
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