In World Fantasy Award–winner Ford's enchanting first story collection, proof abounds that a fresh perspective or inventive approach can give the most familiar themes fresh life and startling clarity. "Exo-Skeleton Town," set on a planet where human beings dress like classic movie stars to trade old films for the aphrodisiacal excrement of the planet's cinephile beetle population, is a surprisingly poignant tale of lonely dreamers isolated by their inescapable illusions. In "At Reparata," a king's melancholy over the death of his queen achieves independent life in the form of a ravenous moth that threatens to consume the entire kingdom. Ford (The Physiognomy) laces the 16 selections with subtle allusions to Poe, Verne and other literary forebears that give the deceptively simple plots resonance and depth. His most effective tool, however, is gentle humor that softens the philosophical edges and magically transforms the zombie operatives, organic computer salesmen and extraterrestrial colonists into sympathetic characters with recognizable sensitivities and longings. A lion's share of the stories explore the theme of artistic creation from invigoratingly original angles. "Creation" reconfigures aspects of biblical Genesis and the legend of Frankenstein into a moving tale of love between a father and son. "Bright Morning" is a masterful sleight-of-hand in which the author's autobiographical reminiscence of his fascination with Kafka plunges him into a private Kafkaesque fiction. Sure to be one of the keynote collections of the year, this book will be welcomed by fans of literate, witty modern fantasy. Agent, Howard Morhaim. (June)
FYI:The title story was nominated for a Nebula Award.