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Clockwork Phoenix 2: More Tales of Beauty and Strangeness [Paperback]

Mike Allen
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

July 1 2009
CLOCKWORK PHOENIX 2: More Tales of Beauty and Strangeness

Story marries style. The result is a cornucopia of modern cutting-edge fantasy.

The second volume of this extraordinary new annual anthology series of fantastic literature dares to surpass the first, with works that sidestep expectations in beautiful and unsettling ways, that surprise with their settings and startle with the manner in which they cross genre boundaries, that aren't afraid to experiment with storytelling techniques, and yet seamlessly blend form with meaningful function. The effervescent offerings found within these pages come from some of today's most distinguished contemporary fantasists and brilliant rising newcomers.

Whether it's a touch of literary erudition, playful whimsy, extravagant style, or mind-blowing philosophical speculation and insight, the reader will be led into unfamiliar territory, there to find shock and delight.

Presenting Clockwork Phoenix 2.

"Allen finds his groove for this second annual anthology of weird stories, selecting 16 wonderfully evocative, well-written tales... Each story fits neatly alongside the next, and the diversity of topics, perspectives and authors makes this cosmopolitan anthology a winner."
--Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

Contributors in this volume include:

Claude Lalumiere, Leah Bobet, Marie Brennan, Ian McHugh, Ann Leckie, Mary Robinette Kowal, Saladin Ahmed, Tanith Lee, Joanna Galbraith, Catherynne M. Valente, Forrest Aguirre, Gemma Files and Stephen J. Barringer, Kelly Barnhill, Barbara Krasnoff, and Steve Rasnic Tem

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4.0 out of 5 stars I like them both Aug. 18 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the second one that I have read.
I like them both.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is an imaginative and fantastical collection of 15 wildly different stories. Enthusiastically recommended June 22 2009
By Juushika - Published on
A collection of 15 stories of fantastical transformation, Clockwork Phoenix 2 walks the line between readability and art to build a collection which is haunting, inspiring, and glorious. As with most short story collections some stories are more successful than others, but as a whole these are all far above par. From a girl who was once a goddess's avatar to a lover made of glass to middle-aged Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the wildly different content disrupts the flow from one story to another, but be patient with the transitions and you'll be rewarded. Fantastical, beautiful, harrowing, and all of them vibrantly unique, the stories in Clockwork Phoenix 2 are a delight to read, and this collection is a resounding success. I recommend it.

Coming into this collection, I had not read the original Clockwork Phoenix and worried that I would miss something for being new to the anthology. Rest assured, this volume stands alone, although it can take a little while to divine from the title and the stories just what it is meant to be. For me, the uniting theme that emerges is transformation. In "Once a Goddess," a woman transitions from goddess's avatar to ordinary human; in "Angel Dust," a stone statue comes alive; in "Never Nor Ever" Tweedledum and Tweedledee meditate on death. Transformation--be it a change role, shape, or place or the cycle of life, death, and rebirth--is a broad and weighty theme. But this theme may not be intentional--Allen never indicates one way or the other, instead commenting on the style of the stories, which he describes as "adventures both in how they read and what they said." This too unites the collection: all the stories are imaginative and brave both in style and in content, and so the 15 wildly disparate tales nonetheless feel at home together in a single volume.

Indeed the joy and the danger of this collection is the great distance between each story. Each one is a sight to a magical world (even if it looks like modern America) in which a great event (read: change, read: magic) is not only possible, it may be happening right now. From comic book settings to a steam-powered spaceships to Middle Eastern villages; from child superheros to magicians to mirror-making lesbian nuns; steampunk and mythpunk and epistalory--the setting, content, and style of each story is unique. And while the quality of the stories varies, there are no duds. "Once a Goddess," "At the Edge of Dying," "Never Nor Ever," and "each thing i show you is a piece of my death" were my favorites, but each selection is a joy to read. The magical worlds and transformative events of each story make them wondrous and eye-opening twice over. However, the transition between these different worlds can be disorientating. The danger of short story collections is the temptation to finish a story and jump right into the next, which is exacerbated here by Allen's skillful arrangement. Hurry onto the next story in Clockwork Phoenix 2 and you'll forget to appreciate the previous and have a difficulty adjusting to the next, and the collection may feel cobbled together. Better to force yourself to pause at the end of the story and let it sink in.

But do that, and Clockwork Phoenix 2 is wonderful. Unfamiliar to the series, confused by the title, I came to it knowing only that I liked two of the authors. I was entirely unsure what I was getting into, but Clockwork Phoenix 2 delighted me. Pacing myself and reveling in the phoenix-like transformations and imaginative styles that unite the collection, each story came alive. They are vivid, fantastical, magical; some are escapist, many are dark and twisted; each story is a pleasure to read and the collected volume is an absolute success. This is one of the better short story anthologies that I've read, and I'm pleased that I had the chance to do so. For something unusual, magical, and transformative, seek out Clockwork Phoenix 2. I recommend it enthusiastically .
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strange and satisfying Sept. 25 2011
By branewurms - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
4 1/2 stars. This is an excellent collection, both strange and satisfying, and now I want the other two in the series. (My poor groaning book budget, s-sob.)

Was interested to read in the author segments at the back of the book that Mike Allen, the editor, wanted to see more strange and experimental fiction, but at the same time often found many experimental works to feel "incomplete and unsatisfying," and "forgettable because they lack emotional punch." Apparently he was seeking out stories that occupied a middle ground between a more traditional narrative arc and the spirit of the strange and experimental.

This is perfect for me, since I love the bizarre and the experimental in fantasy, but I also often feel unengaged and let down by the seeming lack of any point in many examples of this type of fiction. I usually tend to assume that maybe I'm just not getting the story, rather than that the story truly lacks any point (or perhaps that looking for a point is missing the... point), but either way, the effect is the same - I don't really connect with the piece or care very much about it. I didn't feel that way about a single story in this collection - they all felt complete and satisfying from start to finish.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Entertaining Read March 18 2010
By N. Composto - Published on
I am not the biggest fan of story collections, so that may be why this wasn't my favorite book. About half of the stories made me yawn, and most of the time I didn't know what was going on until a page or two before the end of each story. HOWEVER, there were some GEMS in this book. Angel Dust was by far the star of the collection. A beautiful story that held my interest from beginning to end and left me wanting more. There are some other stories lumped together in the middle of the book, they are all good as well. The story about the fish (can't remember the title offhand) was great and made me laugh. Overall I would recommend it if you like the variety that a short story collection has to offer, I just wish all the stories held my interest.
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