The Mammoth Book of Sorcerer’s Tales edited by Mike Ashley (2004) – I read this anthology immediately after I read Isaac Asimov’s Wizards compiled in 1983, so I thought there would be more differences as times have changed. There were some new ideas and new technology; however, not much had changed. I was surprised to see how few women writers were included after twenty years. The percentage in 1983 – 14%. 2004? 15%. As Geena Davis says about women in films, at this rate women should reach parady in 2515. As usual, I’ll mention a bit about each tale to pique your interest. I’ll try to keep it to a few lines for each story as there are twenty-three of them in this collection – mammoth indeed.
Ten Things I Know About the Wizard by Steve Rasnic Tem – Cleverly formatted story about a young man learning about his dream girl and her powerful father.
Villagio Sogno by Richard A. Lupoff – An atmospheric tale of two girls shopping. While not a big fan of main characters as simple onlookers, I found the world-building and character outlook interesting.
The Game of Magical Death by Doug Hornig – A story that couldn’t have been written in 1983. A young gamer too bright for his own good receives a Game of Magical Death disk that really kills his opponents. He’s dying to play it.
The Infestation by Tom Holt – One of my favorites about a mediocre wizard who finds a place for himself inspecting crates and barrels (per a city ordinance), but instead of spoiled herring, he encounters a dangerous creature way out of his pay scale.
The Witch’s Bicycle by Tim Pratt – Another great story. A witch rejuvenates by manipulating The Boy and The Girl to kill The Rival as she’s done for hundreds of years. All the nerd has to do is kill the bully and the witch can slip into the nerdette’s teenage body. Unfortunately for her, kids today don’t know their places.
Sage of Theare by Diana Wynne Jones – A gods versus discord tale where the gods try to interfere with cosmic destiny (a child who shall sow discord) and end up creating their own downfall.
Tiimekeeper by John Morressy – A classic-seeming tale of a strange clock repairman who swoops into town and changes lives.
The Double Shadow by Clark Ashton Smith – Another story that felt like I was reading an ancient legend. An overly ambitious wizard and his apprentice discover a strange metal document and decipher the spell it contains. Unfortunately, the wizard grows two shadows and the strange, contorted one grows closer every day.
The Rite Stuff by Michael Kurland – There are several psychic detectives in this anthology. This one is about a kidnapping case in San Francisco. Was the senator’s young daughter kidnapped by magic or is her reappearance a simple parlor trick?
Master of Chaos by Michael Moorcock – The queen’s champion fights his way through spells cast by a magical queen in her desolate castle at the edge of Chaos. When she makes him an offer he can’t refuse, it’s not what you think. Standard Moorcock.
Seven Drops of Blood by Robert Weinberg – The other psychic detective story. Sidney Taine is hired to find the Holy Grail – in Chicago. It’s got the Jamacian mafia, double crossing mobsters, and a new age detective. What more could you ask for?
To Become a Sorcerer by Darrell Schwitzer – I know lots of people who love this type of fantastic writing, but I found the muddled dream land of crocodile death to be too detached from reality for me. Beautifully written but not my cup of tea.
No. 252 Rue M. Le Prince by Ralph Adams Cram – A spend-the-night-in-a-haunted-house story. Does the fact that it takes place in Paris make it any more interesting? Not really.
The Bones of the Earth by Ursula K. Le Guin – It’s no coincidence that Ms. Le Guin appears in both anthologies. Not only is she prolific, but she’s really, really good. In this tale of unlikely families, an old wizard must sacrifice everything to save the land he and his apprentice have sworn to defend. Touching in the relationship between two different wizards.
The Closed Window by A.C. Benson – Again, I had the feeling I was reading Bram Stoker while reading this story of two cousins in an old castle with a window into hell which they just can’t keep closed.
Disillusioned by Lawrence Schimel and Mike Resnick – Probably one of the most appropriately titled stories in the collection. This tale of a powerful but boring wizard and his unhappy wife reaches a crossroads when magic disappears.
In the Realm of Dragons by Esther M. Friesner – Convoluted tale of a were-dragon avenging his uncle’s death by gay-bashers. Convoluted in the sense that she uses flashbacks, flash forwards, and flash sideways. Confusing but satisfying.
Forever by Tim Lebbon – Sad stories always stay with me, and this tale of a northland warrior’s attempt to escape his life of servitude and unending battle was gut-wrenching.
The Wizard of Ashes and Rain by David Sandner – Okay, this one might not have been written in the 80’s either, and it was my favorite story. A young skate-boarder must save her sister from a dimension-hopping demon by enlisting the Elf gang in her battle alongside the Wizard of Ashes and Rain. Some very familiar characters in this updated urban tale of magic and secrets.
The Walker Behind by Marion Zimmer Bradley – Although this is excellently written, I had trouble with it. The hero (actually the disguised heroine), constant reminders of how long-lived and accomplished she is, and the quick way she dispatches the disgusting bad guys, made me appreciate her novel writing.