cover image David Copperfield's Tales of the Impossible

David Copperfield's Tales of the Impossible

. HarperPrism, $23 (385pp) ISBN 978-0-06-105228-6

A collection that includes, among other stories, a military tale from Larry Bond, a creepy puppet yarn by Joyce Carol Oates, an excerpt from an unfinished novel by the late comic-book artist Jack Kirby and the first published story by master prestidigitator Copperfield promises to be jarring, eclectic or just plain odd. This collection, built around the idea of magic and illusion, manages to be all three. Many of the 18 original stories here playfully or seriously embrace the weird, the supernatural and the bizarre--which is why Bond's war story, for its clarity and realism, seems to have wandered in from another book. High points include S.P. Somtow's ``Diamonds Aren't Forever,'' which takes the idea that the world is illusion to a delightfully clever extreme; Eric Lustbader's ``The Singing Tree,'' a moving story about death, reliving the past and new beginnings; a nifty F. Paul Wilson tale about an all-powerful word that, like all wish-fulfilling talismans, comes with its own curse; the haunting ``Switch,'' by Lucy Taylor, in which a young girl's escape from reality leaves her with yet another reality to escape; and ``Quicker than the Eye,'' a rare new tale by Ray Bradbury. Overall, this anthology, instead of celebrating that magic and sleight-of-hand that all good literature shares and evokes, reflects the merits of the Vegas-style magic extravaganzas for which Copperfield is known. (Dec.)