Sunday, July 05, 2009

Review: Strange Itineraries

Strange Itineraries, by Tim Powers
7.5/10, an inventive collection of short stories

Continuing with my summer of reading my favorite authors, I took this Christmas present off my book stack. I'd already read The Drawing of the Dark, an early Tim Powers novel, and I was hoping for more of the same.

When it comes to imagination, Powers never disappoints. All the stories in the collection are based off brilliant ideas, and the writing is generally quite good. He has a way of introducing the protagonist's problem in very matter-of-fact language, where ordinary tasks pose huge issues or carry immense weight: the picking up of a baby's bottle, for instance, or walking across a closed bedroom.

But the stories lack the coherence and drive of his novels, for the most part. "Where They Are Hid" is the best of the bunch, a gripping time-travel story in which consequences and actions are mingled and unfold with perfect precision. Many of the others settle for being weird, which is just fine--Powers does weird with his own particular touch, and I love reading it. I'm just used to his stories having more texture and depth, and perhaps that's a limitation of the short story form.

Because they're short stories, though, they don't require a large investment of time to read. If you're looking for a taste of Tim Powers and you don't want to embark on one of the novels, this isn't a bad place to start.

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