cover image The Best of Catherynne M. Valente, Vol. One

The Best of Catherynne M. Valente, Vol. One

Catherynne M. Valente. Subterranean, $50 (800p) ISBN 978-1-64524-077-8

Valente (Space Opera) shows off her versatility in this mind-blowing collection of 45 stories. The standouts are an irreverent take on the Cthulhu Mythos and a thought-provoking look at artificial intelligence. “Down and Out in R’lyeh” opens with the line, “In his house at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu farts in his sleep,” instantly puncturing the Lovecraftian menace with humor. Cosmic horror tropes are further subverted by the narrator, a being who was born in the underwater city where the tentacled Cthulhu is confined and is utterly bored by his life there, complaining of “the ugly, kitschy non-Euclidean central business district.” The satire of this piece couldn’t be more different from the heartfelt thought experiment of “Silently and Very Fast,” in which Elefsis, an AI who originated as a smart house, pushes back on the trope of a man-made intellect wanting to become human, but both work on every level. Other entries—including a disturbing alternate history, “Fade to White,” and clever myth retelling, “L’Esprit de L’Escalier”—are equally challenging.The result is an impressive showcase for a gifted author who never plays it safe. Agent: Howard Morhaim, Howard Morhaim Literary. (Apr.)