cover image Dreams Underfoot: The Newford Collection

Dreams Underfoot: The Newford Collection

Charles de Lint. Tor Books, $22.95 (414pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85205-4

This collection of conceptually innovative, thematically simple stories proves again that de Lint ( Spiritwalk ) is a leading talent in the urban fantasy subgenre, which seeks to unite the escapist whimsy of fantasy with the hard edge of cyberpunk SF. The stories are all set in Newford, a New York/Chicago-style urban jungle where citizens often encounter strange beings--worldly monsters, as well as unearthly ghosts--who coexist in what one character calls ``a consensual reality where things exist because we want them to exist.'' In what may be his cleverest stylistic twist, de Lint links the stories through overlapping characters, all of whom have some familiarity with the fictional writer Christy Riddell, who (like de Lint) writes ``mythistories,'' the ``odd little stories that lie just under the skin of any large city.'' De Lint is at his best when his sense of wonder at the possibilities of imagination is rooted in an unsentimental view of harsh human realities: ``Freewheeling'' includes a sad view of urban street kids, and ``In the House of My Enemy'' takes a tough look at child abuse. However, De Lint's obviously sincere feeling that ``if we learned to care again about the wild places from which we'd driven the magic away, then maybe it would return'' leads him to spell out his moral messages, to the detriment of his fiction. (Apr.)