I won’t lie and tell you the cover and title of this book had absolutely nothing to do with my selection of this book. I just won’t – because it did. There's no question I'm a cat fanatic but black cats? Forget it - my personal goal is to save each and every one.
That said, this isn't a book about cats or black cats - although we do meet a cat named Beelzebub. This collection is a group of short stories by author Michael Swanwick and I have to admit I was very surprised and happy with almost all of them. I'm a huge fan of David Sedaris who compiles his auto-biographical short stories and essays into books, and while I wouldn't put Mr. Swanwick on the Sedaris level quite yet - I really enjoyed these somewhat odd, somewhat science fiction focused tales.
The 17 stories in this book are compiled from works published between 2008 through 2014, and includes 2008's From Babel’s Fall’n Glory We Fled that won the Science Fiction Hugo Award for best short story. However in the spirit of full disclosure, I wasn't a huge fan of this particular story. For me, some of the others seemed more worthy but like any type of art, it's all subjective right?
My favorite was The She-Wolf’s Hidden Grin in which two "poor" little rich girls living in a dingy colonial world discover their alien nature. As a kid, I distinctly remember fantasizing that I was actually an alien who didn't belong in my world and they would come back for me any day. To those who know me - that probably isn't surprising! Even now when I travel up north, where I can actually see a night sky FULL of stars, the thought crosses my mind.
To my surprise, Mr. Swanwick is considered a "master" of science fiction and fantasy and I do not mean for that to sound cruel or shady. I only mention my surprise because I had not read anything of his before, but it's easy to see why he was granted such a lofty title in the writing world. His writing is flawless and creative, his characters incredibly well-developed for short stories, and the descriptive nature of his text can make you feel as if you're living in these other worlds right along with the characters. Mr. Swanick's readers (and many critics) have gone so far as to call him the 'god' of the science fiction world.
I found summarizing the entire collection a bit difficult aside from what I've already said, so please allow me to quote the publisher:
"In Not So Much, Said the Cat you’ll find time travelers from the Mesozoic partying ’til the end of time, and a calculus problem that rocks the ages. A supernatural horse-guardian journeys with a confused but semi-repentant troll. A savvy teenage girl wagers against the Devil, and is promptly set upon by the most unsuitable of suitors."
(Hence the title of this particular book review. Don't fucking trust anyone, especially if they love you to your face but wreak havoc, or encourage it, or don't stop it... behind your back.)
And of course, you’ll meet Beelzebub the cat, whose subtle influence may not be entirely benign.
If you're a fan of Sci-Fi, you're probably way ahead of me with this one, but at least I finally got there. If you're not a big fan but some of the descriptions and stories sound interesting to you - check it out. The beautiful thing about short-story collections is you can skip around to themes or titles that catch your attention and may introduce you to a genre you've not considered before.
If you have read it, or plan to, please let me know. I wouldn't mind some additional recommendations!