Nose Cults and Scared Godshttps://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/web/nose-cults-and-scared-gods/

Nose Cults and Scared Gods

An anthology edited by Neil Gaiman and fellow sci-fi writer Al Sarrantonio,has new tales by 27 authors

Stories

Edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio

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Pages: 432

Price: Rs 595

And then what happened? The four words that are proof of good stories. Best-selling writer Neil Gaiman knows this only too well. Stories,an anthology edited by him and fellow sci-fi writer Al Sarrantonio,has new tales by 27 authors,including Walter Moseley,Joyce Carol Oates,Joanne Harris and Michael Moorcock. And they stick to the “four-word” credo that Gaiman and Sarrantonio insist was the thought behind choosing the authors for this anthology.

There are some well-crafted short stories here. Like Roddy Doyle’s “Blood”,about a man who suddenly has a craving for meat. It begins,“He grew up in Dracula’s city. He’d walk past Bram Stoker’s house every day on his way to school. But it had meant nothing to him.” The genre is fantasy fiction,as the preface says,an “infinite playroom in which the only boundaries are those of the imagination”.

Doyle’s story is followed by Oates’ “Fossil Figures”,a tale of twin brothers from their time in the womb to their death. One becomes the star,the other is ignored. One is in politics,the other is a recluse.

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Joanne Harris’ “Wildfire in Manhattan” has shades of Gaiman’s novel American Gods,as she writes about gods fighting for survival in present-day Manhattan.

Touches of the Grimm brothers’ fairy tales are seen more than once in this collection,particularly in Gaiman’s story,“The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains”,about a dwarf searching for a treasure-filled cave from where no one has returned. But this seeming fairy tale soon turns into a murder mystery.

Sarrantonio has a story too,“The Cult of the Nose”,which revolves around a secret society that no one knows of,well almost no one. Another page turner is Richard Adams’ “The Knife”,a horror mystery set in a boys’ boarding school.

Stories is for anyone who likes a touch of the bizarre — goblin lakes,scared gods,nose cults — and first lines like “The loudest sound in the world is the absence of a child”.