Not So Much, Said the Cat by Michael Swanwick (2016)
Fiction | Sci-Fi | short stories
“The master of short science-fiction follows up his acclaimed collection The Dog Said Bow-Wow with feline grace, precision, and total impertinence. Michael Swanwick takes us on a whirlwind journey across the globe and across time and space, where magic and science exist in possibilities that are not of this world. These tales are intimate in their telling, galactic in their scope, and delightfully sesquipedalian in their verbiage.
Join the caravan through Swanwick’s worlds and into the playground of his mind. Discover a calculus problem that rocks the ages and robots who both nurture and kill. Meet a magical horse who protects the innocent, a confused but semi-repentant troll, a savvy teenager who takes on the Devil, and time travelers from the Mesozoic who party till the end of time…”
Expected Publication Date: August 15, 2016
pooled ink Review:
A whirlwind of stories that take you across the world, through different pockets of time, and into a sample of the lives being lived, Not So Much, Said the Cat is an excellent compilation. Swanwick’s latest book is a delight to read, both entertaining and insightful.
This book is in fact a collection of science fiction stories. Each tale is related and connected on some thin plane and yet they remain completely independent of one another. They feature a vast array of characters and the settings jump all over the world. Many are written with a unique blend capturing the charming thrum of an old folk tale and melding it with perhaps a little magic plus a future filled with bots, smart objects, and other science fiction tropes and themes.
Each story explores its own ideas and is filled with endless thoughts beneath the surface. In particular I picked up ‘free will’ as a subtle reoccurring theme.
In a way this collection made me feel it reminiscent of Ray Bradbury’s many short stories. The Illustrated Man, for instance, is a book I vividly recall reading for class years ago. However I do feel that Bradbury’s stories carried a heavier eerie tone that often veered into the frankly disturbing, while Swanwick utilizes the great capacity of science fiction to explore humanity and the world around us without needing to completely weird out the readers.
While there were several stand out stories throughout this book I did feel that the opening story entitled “The Man in Grey” was an excellent choice to kick off this journey. In this story the world is but an semi-illusory place akin to a movie set complete with stagehands, talent, props, and the almighty script. It’s actually a brilliant analogy albeit not one unexplored or left un-pondered before in history. William Shakespeare himself is known for the line “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players” in As You Like It (Act 2.7). In this world what the people perceive as reality is referred to as the “Great Game” by those who live in the grey. It truly intrigued me how the man in grey interacted with poor Martha, particularly his brief thoughts as the train swept by that second take. But that concluding line – “I am the man in grey, and I love you all” – was a nail pried from the coffin. We have been given but a taste of a mind-blowing alternative reality and are left with far more questions than we could possibly know what to do with. In this scenario perhaps Martha was not quite crazy after all. Perhaps her performance was the unexpected twist that could only be expected. Hmm…like I said, this particular story stood out to me and I’ll no doubt continue to mull it over for some time.
Swanwick’s latest literary contribution, Not So Much, Said the Cat, is a thought-provoking, simply complex, and adventurous smattering of science fiction short stories. Allow each story to take you someplace utterly unexpected and yet a place that inexplicably feels a tad familiar.
Purchase here: Not So Much, Said The Cat
Meet Michael Swanwick!
Michael Swanwick has received the Hugo, Nebula, Theodore Sturgeon, and World Fantasy Awards for his work. Stations of the Tide was honored with the Nebula Award and was also nominated for the Hugo and Arthur C. Clarke Awards. “The Edge of the World,” was awarded the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award in 1989. It was also nominated for both the Hugo and World Fantasy Awards. “Radio Waves” received the World Fantasy Award in 1996. “The Very Pulse of the Machine” received the Hugo Award in 1999, as did “Scherzo with Tyrannosaur” in 2000. -Swanwick’s Official Website