Whew, I promise I am not ever Posty McPost-a-lot this much. I just had several things to catch up on today.
So. For years, Dreams Underfoot was in my top five favorite short story collections of all time. And I would buy the new de Lint automatically and eagerly, unless it came out close to a holiday, in which case I would hope very hard that someone would get it for me. That's fallen off lately; I've felt like the Newford stories have gotten a lot more formulaic, and that the things that gave them their heart feel less heartfelt when they're repeated ad infinitum. "I'll buy that right away in hardcover" became "I'll pick that up in paperback," and then "I'll get that from the library," followed by, "Oh dear, another?"
So when Tor sent this along, I winced a little. I wanted to think of de Lint in terms of Dreams Underfoot and reading it in the Math Club van as dawn broke on the way to a math contest in South Dakota when I was 16. I did not want to be reminded of how little I have liked some of the more recent things.
But this, this was better. There were still a few stories that struck me as shocking self-indulgence that would by no means be permitted a less established writer ("A Crow Girls' Christmas," good heavens), but then there was the real stuff. There was the stuff that was not a rehash, not the same story with different labels, but had its own heart, worth doing. When we got to "Dark Eyes, Faith, and Devotion," I thought, "Well, this might go all right, then," and "Riding Shotgun" didn't go where I expected it to, in good ways. And then "Da Slockit Light" was like he had noticed what he kept doing and almost did it and then did something else instead, something more interesting.
Which made me pretty happy.
So what we wound up with was a short story collection with some weak points and some strong points, which is, when you think about it, most short story collections, if you're lucky. It is not going to make my top five short story collections ever. But that's a much tougher crowd than it was when I was 16. What this collection did was remind me why I was so enchanted that I had to pause and take breaths and stare out across the stubbly dawn-lit cornfields in the Math Club van 16 years ago. And that was no small thing.