cover image Imperfect Commentaries

Imperfect Commentaries

Ruthanna Emrys. Lethe, $18 trade paper (238p) ISBN 978-1-59021-702-3

Encounters with the alien and human responses to them are a recurring theme across the 25 stories and poems in this captivating fantasy collection. In “Seven Commentaries on an Imperfect Land,” the magical realm of Tikanu abuts the everyday world, revealing fantastic possibilities beyond the ordinary. “The Deepest Rift” and “Exposure Therapy” are both first-contact stories that probe the limits of understanding for humans confronting extraterrestrial species. In “The Word of Flesh and Soul,” the alien takes the form of an ancient culture whose oracular language wreaks physical transformations in the bodies of its contemporary translators. Emrys’s tales abound with magic and marvels, but her focus is on the nuances that define the humanity of her characters, seen most perceptibly in “The Litany of Earth,” which introduces the protagonist of her novels Winter Tide (2017) and Deep Roots (2018): a descendant of the amphibious race in Lovecraft’s “The Shadow over Innsmouth” whose persecution has echoes of the plight of contemporary refugees. The author’s frequent feminist and queer spins on familiar fantasy tropes add an exhilarating freshness. Readers looking for work that upends and challenges the genre’s stalwart ideas and themes will find Emrys’s commentaries suit them perfectly. Agent: Cameron McClure, Donald Maass Literary. (Aug.)