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The Best of Stephen R. Donaldson by Stephen R. Donaldson
Review by Drew Bittner
Subterranean Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781596063679
Date: 31 March 2011 List Price $40.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Though perhaps best known for his epic fantasy series The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, and also for his mysteries and sf novels, Stephen R. Donaldson is one heck of a short story writer. This volume contains some of his hard-to-find short fiction, showcasing a talent that is not chained to the novel format.

Donaldson does not write a lot of short fiction, but when he does, it's always well worth reading. This book collects eleven stories, including some that saw print in his collection Daughter of Regals and Other Stories. Indeed, the story "Daughter of Regals" is here--a work about dynasty and self-discovery that offers more than enough substance for a full novel, yet Donaldson makes it into an effective, tightly written narrative.

One of my favorite short stories is reprinted here as well: "Unworthy of the Angel". Flung into the life of a young woman desperately in need of help, an angel pits himself against a demonic art gallery owner for very high stakes: the soul of a young artist and an innocent's life. It's a fascinating meditation on art and how one becomes deserving of salvation.

"Mythological Beast" follows the plight of Norman, an ordinary man living in a drab, sterile future where creativity and wonder appear to have been purged. He develops a baffling medical condition that seems to be altering him in strange, even frightening ways. In the end, he discovers, magic will not be banished from the world no matter what humanity may choose to do.

"Reave the Just", on the other hand, takes place in a world where magic is a reality but justice is not. A foolish young man falls in love with a girl claimed by a noble. In distress, he tells a clumsy lie...and the consequences are not long in coming, when Reave the Just--a figure of legend (and terror)-- comes to town.

These are only a few of the great stories in this volume. Subterranean Press has done fantasy readers a true service by gathering up some of the best fantasy short story telling of the past few decades; Stephen R. Donaldson may be best known as the author of Thomas Covenant but his talent is far greater than one creation. If this book helps make that talent better known to the wider reading world, so much the better.

Highly recommended.

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