cover image Three Moments of an Explosion

Three Moments of an Explosion

China Miéville. Del Rey, $27 (400p) ISBN 978-1-101-88472-0

Award winner Miéville (Embassytown) moves effortlessly among realism, fantasy, and surrealism in this dark, sometimes horrific short story collection. Highlights include “Polynia,” in which icebergs begin appearing in the sky over London, floating effortlessly despite their enormous weight; “In the Slopes,” centered on the discovery of a Pompeii-like ancient city in which humans and aliens seem to have coexisted in peace; the frightening “Sacken,” about Lovecraftian goings-on at a lakeside vacation spot; “Dreaded Outcome,” in which a therapist proves herself willing to go to any length to cure her clients; and “Covehithe,” in which all of the deep-water oil drilling platforms that have ever sunk and polluted the planet return, striding out of the water like Wellsian tripods, to inflict vengeance on humanity and pursue their own mysterious agenda. Miéville’s ornate style, which befits the fantasies he’s known for, can also become terse, even minimalist, in such experimental pieces as “The Crawl” and “Listen to the Birds.” His characters, whether ordinary witnesses to extraordinary events or lunatics operating out of inexplicable compulsions, are invariably well drawn and compelling. Above all, what the stories have in common is a sense that the world is not just strange, but stranger than we can ever really comprehend. (Aug.)