Going Home Again

Howard Waldrop, Author St. Martin's Press $22.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-312-18589-3
The fantastic inventions and whimsical nostalgia in these nine stories suggest that Waldrop (Night of the Cooters) is either a pulp writer born out of his time or an autodidact from another world. Although many of these stories have appeared in science fiction publications like Amazing Stories and Omni, they are as close to Robert Coover as they are to Isaac Asimov. There's an alternate version of Dickens's A Christmas Carol and a Damon-Runyonized retelling of the fairy tale ""The Brementown Musicians."" Most of these stories revolve around curious what-if ideas tightly wrapped in oddball erudition and tied up with snappy dialogue. The best and subtlest of these is the opening ""You Could Go Home Again,"" which takes place on a USA, Inc. Airship and slowly reveals its hero, a writer recovering from a near-fatal illness, to be Tom (not Thomas) Wolfe living in 1940. Elsewhere, one finds Peter Lorre, a refugee from a successful Nazi Reich, performing in a Brecht cabaret in ""The Effects of Alienation"" and Mexican masked wrestlers in an apocalyptic match with overtones of medieval mystery plays in ""El Castillo de la Preserverancia."" Only in the case of ""Flatfeet!,"" in which a Keystone-Kops-meet-monsters scenario reflects Spengler's Decline of the West, do Waldrop's crazy-quilt themes wear too thin. To round out this collection and proclaim its roots, there is ""Scientification,"" in which a tribe of intelligent insects lives on a dark, chilly earth in the distant future, a straight science fantasy out of H.G. Wells or Weird Tales. (July)
Reviewed on: 06/29/1998
Release date: 07/01/1998
Open Ebook - 222 pages - 978-1-4668-8450-2
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