Thursday, October 13, 2005

Recently Read: Strange Itineraries by Tim Powers

Tim Powers has been one of my favorite writers since I stumbled onto The Anubis Gates nearly twenty years ago, but I've never considered him a short story writer. Neither did anyone else, as far as I can tell - this slim volume collects every single bit of short fiction he's written, and it barely breaks two hundred pages.

It's kind of expensive for its length, too, at $15.95 for a trade paperback. On the other hand, the cover is a cool, relaxing blue and prominently features a very encouraging ceramic duck; even if the book were blank, it would almost be worth the money.

Of course, it isn't blank - there are nine Tim Powers stories inside. They're all worth reading, and a couple of them - "Where They Are Hid" and "Night Moves" - are as good as any fantasy stories written by anyone. "Pat Moore" is quite good, too, though it felt to me like Powers revisiting ideas he'd already worked through before. But Powers stories - short or novel-length - are all of a piece, anyway; the supernatural element is probably ghostly or otherwise connected inextricably with death, and the hero must sacrifice something of himself, something important, to win through in the end. As others have said, many times, Powers has a solidly Catholic sense of guilt and responsibility. His fantasies are solidly grounded in the ordinariness of the everyday world, and will last and endure because of that. So maybe "Pat Moore" just didn't map out its own specific territory in Powers-land as well as I had hoped it would.

This book is worth reading, as any Powers book is. And it's also a good sampler of Powers for a new reader, showing his strengths and characteristic ideas in smaller compass. I suppose there are readers, maybe even relatively sophisticated and smart ones, who won't like Powers. (Anything is possible, in an infinitely expanding universe.) But I hope never to meet any.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Of the readers who do not like Powers, by definition they are neither smart nor sophisticated.

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