The seven long short stories (originally published from 1996 to 2001 mostly in magazines like Asimov's Science Fiction
) that make up this literate collection from British author MacLeod (The Light Ages
) range from the pleasantly fantastic ("The Noonday Pool") to all-out, straight-up SF weird ("Verglas"). In the title tale, a girl named Jalila comes of age on Habara, a planet peopled almost entirely by women. Jalila befriends a boy and an old woman who navigates starships, both oddities on her world, and inevitably, the two clash, with disastrous results. The protagonist of "The Chop Girl," set during WWII, is so called because pilots who dance with her end up dead, killed in battle. Walt Williams, a golden pilot, the epitome of good luck, seeks her out, for reasons both simple and complex, and the chop girl finds out whether she's really somehow causing the deaths or she simply draws soldiers to her when they lose hope. Typically in each tale, a distinctive protagonist faces some task or challenge, goes through loss or some kind of trauma and grows from the experience. MacLeod sensitively explores the human condition. Agent, Susan Ann Protter. (June)
The book's final entry, "The Summer Isles," won a World Fantasy Award and was nominated for a Hugo.