cover image Storeys from the Old Hotel

Storeys from the Old Hotel

Gene Wolfe. Tor Books, $21.95 (331pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85208-5

Warning in his introduction that this anthology contains ``some of my most obscure work,'' Wolfe ( Castleview ) goes on to briefly describe the background of the 34 ``storeys,'' which include some intriguing ideas. Unfortunately, the ideas are generally more provocative and interesting than the stories themselves. In ``Straw,'' for example, Wolfe postulates the invention of the hot-air balloon in 500 A.D.; the story, however, about five balloon soldiers carrying pincer maces and searching for food and straw, goes nowhere. Not entirely disappointing, the collection includes such highlights as ``In Looking-Glass Castle,'' ``The Recording'' and ``The Marvelous Brass Chessplaying Automation.'' Best is ``From the Desk of Gilmer C. Merton,'' a hilarious series of letters between an up-and-coming SF/horror writer and his agent. The bulk of the works remain either frustratingly short (``To the Dark Tower Came,'' ``Continuing Westward''), far too long (``Trip, Trap,'' ``The Rubber Bend'') or simply pointless (``The Flag,'' ``Redbeard''). (Apr.)