Review: Starlings by Jo Walton

35909363Verdict: Uneven; partly wonderful, partly flat.

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Date read: January 27th, 2018

Published by Tachyon, February 23rd, 2018

Genre: Short Fiction.

Find it on goodreads.

An intimate first flight of short fiction from award-winning novelist Jo Walton (Among Others, The King’s Peace).

A strange Eritrean coin travels from lovers to thieves, gathering stories before meeting its match. Google becomes sentient and proceeds toward an existential crisis. An idealistic dancer on a generation ship makes an impassioned plea for creativity and survival. Three Irish siblings embark on an unlikely quest, stealing enchanted items via bad poetry, trickery, and an assist from the Queen of Cats.

With these captivating initial glimpses into her storytelling psyche, Jo Walton shines through subtle myths and wholly reinvented realities. Through eclectic stories, subtle vignettes, inspired poetry, and more, Walton soars with humans, machines, and magic—rising from the everyday into the universe itself.

I have wanted to read Jo Walton’s novels for a while now and I can definitely say that after this collection of short stories that I am more excited than ever. As is sadly often the case with short story collections there were a few stories that did not work for me and a few poems that didn’t either, however, the stories I liked, I adored.

Jo Walton has a way of choosing pitch perfect voices for her stories and they all sounded completely different depending on the genre she chose. She tells stories in a vast array of genres: re-tellings, science fiction, straight up fantasy. Some stories are more of a cheeky joke (she admits so freely) while others are highly political (I happen to like that in my genre fiction). I absolutely adored the fairy tale that starts this collection (“Three Twilight Tales”): it feels like a fairy tale while being completely original and I never saw the ending coming. I found “The Panda Coin” to be the strongest of the collection: here we follow one coin through different hands. Jo Walton manages to create a believable science fiction setting in just these glimpses. “Escape to Other Worlds With Science Fiction” would have been a brilliant start to a novel and I wanted more from this than I got.

The stories that seemed to be more for her own amusement were the ones that did not quite work for me: Especially “Remember the Allosaur” and “Joyful and Triumphant: St. Zenobius and the Aliens” just felt like extended inside jokes to me.

I am glad to have read this because I am now more eager than ever to get to Jo Walton’s novels (where hopefully she won’t need to tell me after each chapter how she thought it up).

I received an arc of this book courtesy of NetGalley and Tachyon Publications in exchange for an honest review.

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