Monday, March 16, 2009

The Perseids and Other Stories by Robert Charles Wilson (a review)

The Perseids and Other Stories by Robert Charles WilsonI don’t read short stories very often, mostly because I feel like just as I’m getting to know the characters, the story ends. As a result, I tend to only read short stories in anthologies (a great way to try out new authors without committing to a whole book) or in collections written by authors I particularly enjoy. The Perseids and Other Stories by Robert Charles Wilson falls into the second category: I was first introduced to Wilson via his fantastic Hugo-nominated novel Darwinia, which won an Aurora Award from the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association in 1999. As I had been feeling a certain “reading restlessness” recently (which meant I was having trouble concentrating long enough to commit to reading a full-length book), this seemed like the perfect time to try out this collection of nine short stories.

Although most of the stories in this book are set in Toronto (and the same bookshop is featured in several of them), they are not linked in a traditional sense. That is to say, they may all begin in a recognizable Toronto, but the deeper you venture into each story, the stranger things get—and each story is unique in its strangeness. Wilson slips easily from metaphor (such as mental illness as a separate city) to science fiction (in which it is literally possible to get lost in a parallel city) as well as from accepted scientific knowledge to plausible extrapolation. Many of his stories are grounded in science, but elements of mysticism and horror are also present in these stories.

It’s hard to pick favourites in this collection: all of these stories are dark, deliciously creepy and deeply satisfying. The only one I liked less, in fact, was the first one, “The Fields of Abraham,” the only story not set in contemporary Toronto (it takes place in 1911) and the only one to feature a plot that felt somewhat familiar (it is also the harshest story). I highly recommend this collection, which turned out to be the perfect cure for my reading restlessness!

For other takes on this book, check out these reviews:
From a Sci-Fi StandpointJanuary MagazineSteven Silver’s ReviewsThe Groovy Age of HorrorThe Horror!?


  1. I love how you describe this collection as being "dark, deliciously creepy". I haven't read anything by Robert Charles Wilson before, I'm afraid, but I will have to check out this collection. I wasn't always a fan of short stories, but they've grown on me in recent years. Great review!

  2. Thanks, Wendy! Wilson is considered a "hard" SF writer (which I generally don't like), which does comes through in this collection but the science is tempered by his literary style and the more mystical/occult elements of these stories. About enjoying (or not enjoying) short stories, I just realized that the one short story collection I really loved last year was also SF/fantasy, so maybe these are the types of short story collections I should be picking up more in the future!

  3. I should have mentioned the title of the collection: it was Artificial Things by Karen Joy Fowler (which I unfortunately didn't review).

  4. I enjoyed your review, Avis. This sounds like an intriguing book - I like some science fiction-y books, but am not crazy about short stories. I checked out the other reviews you listed and it's interesting to see that they vary in their opinions of this book.

  5. Thanks, Myckyee. I'd recommend this book even if you don't like short stories! Yeah, I like linking to other reviews, even if they are negative (although if I think the reviewer is way off base, I won't link to their review, obviously), because a negative review can give you another perspective (and won't necessarily put you off the book).