A collection of short writing by the science fiction and horror writer Dan Simmons, this book is less a good collection, and more of a catch-all for fictional writing Dan Simmons worked on in a given time. That’s a shame because what’s good is very good and interesting, but there’s some distracting other writing here.
Included in this collection are stories that are part of longer works like his novel Carrion Comfort, in which the original 50 page story (chapters 1 and 3 of the novel) later became the start of the novel. There’s also a story connected to his novel The Hollow Man (not related to the movie with Kevin Bacon) and, better, an early novella that is the seeds of the Hyperion books. That one works better, and even includes a character walking around asking poignant question to a lost love. That lost love is named Siri, and so there’s several elements in which someone “Siri,________?” which makes me think Dan Simmons should sue Apple (though probably not). There’s also a script Dan Simmons wrote for the television show “Monsters” — do you remember that one? It was a late night anthology show like Tales of the Crypt or Tales from the Dark Side in which a family of monsters watch tv shows. Well, the show is terrible (but I love things like that) and the script is ok.
The other stories are generally very good. There’s a story about a Vietnam War theme park, where rather than just present the conceit, he explores the implications of a vet returning there. There’s a long story about a Civil War reunion fifty years after Gettysburg, where the buried ghosts haunt the living. There’s a story in which a student with disabilities lives in a fantasy world of his own creation (that just so happens to take place in the Hyperion universe) much to the detriment of his “real world” life. Dan Simmons also opens each story with a contextual piece that almost never offers anything useful.