cover image THE BANQUET OF THE LORDS OF NIGHT: And Other Stories


Liz Williams, . . Night Shade, $27 (189pp) ISBN 978-1-892389-93-0

As the 18 highly original and imaginative entries in her debut story collection reveal, Williams (The Poison Master ) has an astonishing ability to create strange worlds and complex characters with only a few words. She finds new tangents with standard myths (a homosexual Eros and Psyche) and uses non-Western concepts (a bureaucratic Chinese hell) to great effect. There's no typical Williams story, though each contains an element of darkness. Sometimes a stunning idea—dolls of living flesh ("Loosestrife") for affluent but infertile girls or a fad for fashionable diseases ("Nightside")—shows room for further development, and plots occasionally falter, but the impact of each tale is always strong. In one of the best, "The Blood Thieves," a real estate agent's efforts to buy property in central Reykjavik for a multinational genetic research corporation are stymied by a northern fairy called a huldra. The author manages to both entertain and enlighten as she mixes whimsy and humor with a fear of genetic manipulation and a warning about the power of global conglomerates. In "Dog Years," a truly chilling modern ghost story, a dying girl makes a Faustian bargain: in exchange for life, she must let ghosts hungry to see the world use her eyes. Williams's unique cross-genre voice is a reinvigorating one for SF, fantasy and horror. Agent, Shawna McCarthy Literary Agency. (Sept. 15)

FYI: Two of Williams's four novels have been nominated for Philip K. Dick Awards.