cover image Start of the End of It All

Start of the End of It All

Carol Emshwiller. Mercury House, $17.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-56279-001-1

Emshwiller's ( Carmen Dog ) exotic worlds are like carnival mirrors that distort our perceptions, letting us see ourselves in new, wise ways. Animals and aliens in these 18 stories embody the fears and hopes of disenfranchised women and attachment-wary men. In the title story, cat-loathing aliens plan to take over Earth, enlisting the aid of a middle-aged divorcee. She agrees to marry one of them, musing that ``sometimes one has to make do (we older women do, anyway) with the peculiar, the alien or the partly alien, the egocentric, the disgruntled, the dissipated. . . . '' Many of the stories have a feminist slant, but Emshwiller portrays men and even dogs with compassion, and marvelously bizarre humor, as well. In ``Pelt,'' a slavishly obedient dog is urged to assert his independence; ``Looking Down'' presents a freedom-loving bird-man who gradually is tamed by love. Love, in fact, is the unifying theme of these stories; imagined or real, it can transform the most cynical of beings. Emshwiller's characters embrace the unexpected and extraordinary; their lives leap from the mundane to the wondrous in a surreal instant, and the reader feels transported, too. (June)