DREAMWISH BEASTS AND SNARKS by Mike Resnick. Urbana, IL; GOLDEN GRYPHON PRESS; 2009. 1st edition hardcover.
Dreamwish Beasts and Snarks:
At times humorous, at other times serious, this endearing collection of short fiction explores many concepts regarding fantastical or futuristic safaris. In the Hugo-and-Nebula-nominated story “Hunting the Snark,” a classical big-game hunt on a newly discovered planet finds more that it bargained for, when the hunt becomes similar to Lewis Carroll’s famous poem. The ending, however, is classic Resnick, where all is not as it seems. Other stories have the element of humor that is so prevalent in his stories, whether he’s describing the pitfalls of stalking the unicorn or the vampire, presented as a pair of after-dinner lectures, or meeting a Tarzan-like British Lord deep in Africa (who is hiding from his creditors while trying to bring Fabian socialism to the great apes); one wonders who is being made fun of? Other stories are more serious and thought provoking, such as “Bwana,” where the Kikuyu have left an industrialized Africa to create a paradise on a new world, but find that it can be fragile to have any contact at all with those that seek progress and fortune. A pure adventure story pits Teddy Roosevelt against a vampire in the streets of New York. A sad warning to today’s world is given in “Safari 2103 A.D.,” where the number of truly wild animals can be counted on one’s fingers. The collection ends with the tale of the Soul Eater, told in separate stories from the perspective of the hunter and hunted, with nods to Moby Dick and the legend of the Flying Dutchman, and is one the strangest love stories you’ll ever read.
STARRED Publishers Weekly review
Dreamwish Beasts and Snarks by Mike Resnick.
Golden Gryphon, 278p, ISBN 978-1-930846-60-9.
Those familiar with five-time Hugo winner Resnick only from his recent comic PI novels (Stalking the Vampire, etc.) will be delighted by this collection of short fiction demonstrating his versatility. “The Lord of the Jungle” features a would-be Tarzan who takes refuge in Africa to evade creditors and build a Communist gorilla nation. “Two Hunters in Manhattan” pits New York City Police Commissioner Teddy Roosevelt against Dracula. The standout stories share the theme of a hunter's obsessive quest for mysterious prey: in “Hunting the Snark,” a guide tracks a powerful predator that's been consuming members of his expedition, while the short but powerful “The Soul Eater” follows a galactic hunter's Ahab-like pursuit of a giant energy being. Resnick packs a wide variety of genre tales full of surprising twists and turns. (Sept.)
Dreamwish Beasts and Snarks
by Kilian Melloy
EDGE Staff Reporter
Monday Aug 24, 2009
Sci-fi great Mike Resnick has, over the years, authored a number of hunting-themed stories ranging from safaris on light-years distant strange new worlds (so much for seeking out new life!) to the comedy-horror adventures of an parallel universe Teddy Roosevelt, vampire killer.
These stories and more can now be found in one collection. Golden Gryphon Press--among the most reliable purveyors of quality speculative fiction and fantasy, always printed on superior paper and treated to excellent binding--has published nine of Resnick’s hunting-themed stories in one volume, Dreamwish Beasts and Snarks.
Anyone acquainted with Resnick’s work or Golden Gryphon’s line of books will know to expect top-notch work from the new collection. But seldom is one writer so consistently capable with a range of tones. Resnick is as artful with his semi-comic, witty noodlings ("Stalking the Unicorn with Gun and Camera") as with his more serious, more deeply textured work, such as the elegantly constructed "Bwana," a generous and wise work, or the thrilling, and ultimately devastating stories that the title refers to, and that bookend the collection: "Hunting the Snark" and "The Soul Eater."
"Hunting the Snark" is a potent story of big game hunting on an alien planet, and a thought experiment on how tragically mistaken even an expert’s assumptions might be when dealing with an unknown intelligence.
"The Soul Eater" is a brilliant, brave, heartbreaking character study of an intergalactic mercenary, a professional killer whose targets are the exquisite, and exotic, life forms from hundreds of worlds. The hunter, Nicobar Lane, encounters a mythical energy being in the remote reaches of an interstellar dust cloud; the experience changes him so profoundly that he becomes obsessed, determined to track and kill the being. Resnick cites "Moby-Dick" as an influence, but this is not a mere retelling with the galaxy as a backdrop in a futuristic setting: Lane is his own, quite complex, character, and no pale shade of Captain Ahab.
Other literary traditions are plucked up and tied into lighthearted knots in "The Lord of the Jungle," which riffs on Tarzan stories in the course of giving Resnick’s recurring character Lucifer Jones a chance to ride (or, rather, wander lost and bemused) once again.
But perhaps the most distressing (and subtle) of the stories presented here is "Safari 2103," a story about ecological and spiritual depletion that presents us with a sympathetic, yet horrified, glimpse at a future in which city dwellers pay a premium to see not lions or tigers, but much tamer game--all that’s left in the shrinking expanse of the wild in a future scrubbed of almost all biodiversity.
If good science fiction is all about finding the regrettably constant elements in human nature among the future’s endless possibilities and then warning us of our own worst possible destinies, then Resnick accomplishes that and more. These stories are a safari for sure: to the extremes of imagination and through the rich veldt of smart storytelling, a wild preserve of the imagination where the reader is sure to glimpse the most savage, and the most noble, of literary creatures.
by Mike Resnick
Publisher: Golden Gryphon Press. Publication Date: September 1, 2009. Pages: 278. Format: trade hardcover original. ISBN 978-1-930-846-609.
Kilian Melloy reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes commentary for EDGEBoston, where he also serves as Assistant Arts Editor.
Fine in fine dj.