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Strange Itineraries
Tim Powers
Tachyon paperback $15.95

review by Duncan Lawie

Strange Itineraries is a fabulous book; a book of fables. Each story contains a whole world, sometimes wrapped in itself and swallowing its own tail, sometimes unfolding and expanding to infiltrate our universe and infect our thought patterns.

The first story, Itineraries, is, in many ways, typical. It is rich in detail, mystifying, perhaps haunted. The beginning of the story is obvious once you reach the end, but not before. The Way Down The Hill is probably the strongest story in a strong collection, though it is also the most straightforward. The narrative is linear and the protagonists are of a type soon recognised. Even so, Powers has an original slant, an unusual perspective and an ending unlikely in the genre. But, as I look down the contents list, Pat Moore, may actually be even better. It manages to hint at a whole new mythology of magic, develop memorable characters and come to a satisfying conclusion all within 40 pages.

Tim Powers seems to only turn to short fiction rarely, as this brief volume is apparently a complete collection of his short fiction. Even so, three of the nine stories present are collaborations with James P. Blaylock. The pairing seems to work very well as it is difficult to guess which stories are which without looking at the credits page. On such a small sample, it is difficult to define a typical Powers story. A number of them appear to contain ghosts, though only one - Through And Through - is much like a traditional ghost story. They tend to hold a common setting in the South West USA, but the bright lights of the big cities are a distant haze. Several stories namecheck Santa Ana whilst others head away from the coast, with Fifty Cents pushing into the Arizona desert. For a British audience, this adds a small extra picquancy of strangeness to the recipe. One element they certainly all share is perfectly delineated characters, whether an ensemble cast, as in Night Moves, or a solo piece like The Better Boy.

Strange Itineraries is strange, fantastic, weird, powerfully written, deeply involving and highly recommended, with one word of caution: each story demands a period of contemplation at the end of the tale; rushing back to daily life or on to the next title is sure to cause confusion as separate worlds collide.
Strange Itineraries by Tim Powers

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