cover image Crackpot Palace: Stories

Crackpot Palace: Stories

Jeffrey Ford. Morrow, $14.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-06-212259-9

Edgar-winner Ford's (The Girl in the Glass) latest is a collection of horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and mystery tales that emerge from the "crackpot palace" of the author's macabre imagination. The 20 stories%E2%80%94most previously published%E2%80%94veer from tired imitations like the teen vampire romp "Sit the Dead" to the more adult allegory of a threatened marriage in "86 Deathlick Road". Ford creates dense alternate worlds filled with magic, curses and dangerous technology in stories such as the Asimovian "The Seventh Expression of the Robot General" about a sentient killing machine that longs for its own destruction, or the excellent "The Wish Head," about a scarred detective who investigates the mysterious death of a beautiful young woman. Themes of science and religion also abound, as in "The Dream of Reason" about a scientist who destroys a mind for knowledge, or in the narratively ambitious "Relic," in which a flawed priest loses his church's saintly artifact to a thief. The volume's strangest feature is the self-reflective post-scripts that follow most of the stories, giving the author's commentary on each one's provenance and meaning. Scattered throughout are shivers, smiles, and thought-provoking conceits, but with the proliferation of time-worn pulp themes (e.g., Indian curses and doppelgangers, the stories' over-earnestness and superficiality are distracting. (Aug.)