I would have expected to like James Alan Gardner’s Gravity Wells , a collection of his short stories, more than I did. I’ve loved (or at least greatly liked) all his novels, and the one short story of his I’d read before, “Three Hearings On The Existence Of Snakes In The Human Bloodstream” (which is collected in this book), was excellent, so things looked good going in.

And in large part, they were pretty good. Many of the stories in the book were quite enjoyable, and “A Young Person’s Guide to the Organism” was superb, so there’s lots of good stuff here. But there’s also a lot of junk — a solid handful of the stories felt more like writing exercises than actual publishable fiction. “Lesser Figures of the Greater Trumps”, for instance, is a series of paragraphs written from the perspective of props on Tarot cards; nice practice if you’re trying to figure out how to write different POVs, but not interesting to read. And “Kent State Descending the Gravity Well” is written from the POV of an SF writer trying, and failing, to write an SF story about the Kent State massacre, with the ultimate emphasis on “failing”.

If you skip the dull bits, the good bits are worthwhile; but if you’re looking for a consistently high-quality collection, you’ll want to look elsewhere.


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