cover image The Panic Hand: Stories

The Panic Hand: Stories

Jonathan Carroll. St. Martin's Press, $23.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-312-14698-6

Carroll (From the Teeth of Angels) has a high reputation in literary SF and fantasy circles. This collection of 20 pieces of his short fiction suggests that it is well deserved. He has a conspicuous knack for giving new dimensions to venerable themes. ""Friend's Best Man,"" which won a World Fantasy Award in 1987, offers a new take on the revolt of the animals. ""Uh-Oh City"" does marvelous things with the Jewish folkloric concept of the 36 Just Men on whom the world depends. ""Black Cocktail"" explores, in sometimes grisly detail, not merely the group mind but the group soul. The title story is a chilling exploration of a handicapped child's use of alter egos to explore, among other things, adult sexuality. The narrator of ""The Sadness of Detail"" sits down in her favorite cafe, only to be interrupted by a stranger who shows her photographs of her husband and son in the future and tells her how she can alter their destinies--and her own. Carroll's stories are tightly focused, with hardly an ill-chosen or misplaced word. They are distinguished by a powerfully haunting quality that derives from a deceptively simple combination of fantastic events related in the easy voice of a raconteur telling simple anecdotes. (Nov.)