~ 700 words
About the Author:
Cat Rambo was an editor for Fantasy Magazine, has written numerous nonfiction articles and interviews, and has volunteered time with Broad Universe and Clarion West. She has been shortlisted for the Endeavour Award, the Million Writers Award, the Locus Awards, a World Fantasy Award, and most recently the Nebula Award (for “Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain,” which appears in the book and is re-printed in this issue of IndianSF).
Five reasons to read Cat Rambo:
#1: If you like stories about strange places and strange creatures
#2: If you like stories that leave you feeling a little strange
#3: If you like a good love story
#4: especially one with talking cats, deadly mermaids, mind-altering technologies, live coats, detachable limbs, gorgeous descriptions and great leaps of imagination, wit, and power
#5: plus travel through space and time
Then this is the book for you
-Karen Joy Fowler
Near + Far consists of two sets of stories The “Near” has stories set on Earth and are closer to real life while “Far” has stories set in the future, on spaceships and on different planets. The anthology is a collection of 24 stories that have appeared in various magazines over time. The book is designed like one of the old Ace Doubles: each collection has its own cover, and you flip the book over to get to the other set of stories. Cat has included a little note about the origin of each story and the magazine editors that accepted it. This gives a warm touch to the experience of reading the anthology.
‘Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain’ is a Nebula Award nominee and an original story in the collection. Planet Porcelain is a fantastical place where the inhabitants are made of clay or porcelain. Tikka, the protagonist, works for the planet’s Tourism Bureau. She usually writes lists for tourists on what to see and what to do. Cat uses the five-things-to-do style to narrate the story, and that makes for an interesting reading. Tikka meets a tourist from the Human world and falls in love.
Porcelain is a fascinating world and Tikka’s characterization is strong. I really felt for her.
‘Kallakak’s Cousins’ is one of my favourite ones in this anthology. There are many gems, but Kallakak’s species, his life on the ‘TwiceFar’ space station (what a lovely name!) paints a very interesting world. The space station makes another appearance in ‘Amid the Words of War’ where Six works at a brothel – The Little Teacup of the Soul, (again, a lovely name). Cat says in the after-notes, “… the idea of what an establishment providing sexual service would look like in a multi-species setting is one that is interesting to explore”. The space-station comes alive, and so does Six.
‘Angry Rose’s Lament’ has strange wasp-like Solin that sits on the wall and amalgamates minds. Some say Solin’s are brain eaters.
Cat does xeno-fiction really well. Her worlds are exotic and the stories poignantly human. Her words flow and plots engage.
‘Seeking Nothing’ is a haunting tale – a must-read in the anthology. ‘Vocobox’ tries to give voice to a woman. ’10 New Metaphors for Cyberspace’ is artistic as is ‘Bus Ride To Mars’ and are not plot driven.
This anthology seems like a planet itself. The terrain is vast – Cat explores addiction, anger, frustration, relationship issues and much more through her stories. The stories engage, evoke a strong reaction, entertain and make one reflect.
Cat says on her blog, “I found out I had more than enough SF for a collection. In fact, we had to cut some of it. A surprising amount.” Yes, the anthology is a long one – happily so.
I highly recommend it for Cat’s sheer talent – for the variety of possible worlds a speculative fiction writer can build. I found it an excellent collection to pick up and read in short bursts. Even then, even in the short bursts, the book left me with a residual nostalgia, the lingering high that a good speculative fiction novel delivers.
Reviewer Bio: Geetanjali Dighe is the publisher of Indian SF. She lives in Mumbai. Her work has been published in Daily Science Fiction, Muse India, World SF, and 365Tomorrows (coming soon). She is a part of Clarion West class of 2013. On twitter she is @GeetanjaliD