cover image The Weight of Words

The Weight of Words

Edited by Dave McKean and William Schafer. Subterranean, $40 (248p) ISBN 978-1-59606-825-4

McKean’s storied career as an illustrator, comics creator, and fine artist is the basis for this magnificent anthology, which contains 12 stories inspired by specific McKean images (all of which are included), as well as a short McKean comic. High points include Catherynne M. Valente’s stunning “No One Dies in Nowhere,” a mystery told in Valente’s characteristically lush prose with the precise discipline of a classical tragedy; Alastair Reynolds’s poignant “Belladonna Nights,” science fiction set in a far future in which the many scattered offshoots of a single personality hold reunions every 200,000 years; and Maria Dahvana Headley’s erudite “The Orange Tree,” a golem story set in 11th-century Andalusia. The collection also includes wonderful, intricate pieces from M. John Harrison, Caitlín R. Kiernan, and Iain Sinclair. In a story from McKean himself, his prose is bolstered by a set of fascinating typographical tricks. Joe R. Lansdale’s “Robo Rapid” is the weakest story, marred by a fairly conventional premise (postapocalyptic robots versus humans) told at too great a length, but even the least satisfying parts of this astonishing book are entirely readable, and the text plays beautifully against McKean’s gorgeously reproduced illustrations. (Jan.)