Monday, November 23, 2009
REVIEW: The Shadow on the Doorstep
Title: The Shadow on the Doorstep
Author: James P. Blaylock
Publisher: ISFIC Press
Point of Sale: publisher's site
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib
I recently attended Windycon, my local Chicago-area science fiction convention. This year’s author Guest of Honor was James P. Blaylock. As is customary, ISFIC Press put out an anthology of his work, and as typical I bought a copy at the release party.
Blaylock’s anthology The Shadow on the Doorstep is a collection of his thirteen personal favorites. Thirteen is entirely deliberate – Blaylock has a bit of a fixation on doughnuts – enough so that the launch party featured doughnuts as refreshments! There’s also a short story entitled Doughnuts in the anthology.
I hadn’t read or frankly even heard of Blaylock before, so Shadow on the Doorstep is my first exposure to him. I have to classify Blaylock’s writing as “gentle fantasy;” so gentle in fact that the title story in this anthology seems to lack a plot. Despite that flaw, I found it entertaining.
Blaylock is that rare bird – born in Southern California, specifically Orange County, back when there were actually orange groves to be found there. Personally, he looks like the stereotypical Californian – tan, lean and healthy. But, perhaps as a result of his watching Orange County being paved over, he has a strong sentimental streak. This sense of sentimentality and place permeates all of these stories, even the ones like Hula Ville, which isn’t set in Orange County.
Several of his stories aren’t even really fantasies at all. For example, The Dry Spell, set in a Southern California dry spell, has no fantastical elements at all. This is more than made up for by stories like my personal favorite, The Old Curiosity Shop, which is also the most action-packed. Fantasies or no, he has a great eye for characters and an amusing turn of phrase. For an example of the later, consider the line, “Amanda needed more shoes like an octopus needed more arms.”
Overall, I have to say that Blaylock is not my cup of tea, although I did enjoy this book. However, if you are a fan of literary fantasy, great descriptions or interesting characters, you will thoroughly enjoy The Shadow on the Doorstep.
Disclaimer: Reviewer purchased the book at retail. Link does not go to affiliate site.