...not so great in execution.
I'm a sucker for short story collections, something I can take to bed and read in short spurts before turning my light off. I'm also a sucker for content that manages to avoid the Eurocentrism so prevalent in the genre. A collection of short stories influenced by Chinese history and culture? They might as well have called it my literary catnip. It was with no small amount of excitement that I greeted the box and plucked this book out of the pile it was shipped with to read immediately.
The anthology began with exactly what I expected and hoped for; the first story ("The Character of the Hound") is one of my favorites. The second was... not as good, but okay. I loathed the third ("Goin' Down to Anglotown") and the fourth ("The Polar Bear Carries the Mail") to the point that I very nearly set the book aside. I'm glad I persevered, as I do rather like some of the other stories (particularly "Lips of Ash" and "Mortal Clay, Stone Heart"), but they're still a mixed bag. I'm baffled as to how some of the stories came to be included in the collection, too. ("Dancers with Red Shoes", I'm looking at you. Aside from the assumed ethnicity of the protagonist, it doesn't seem to touch at all on Chinese heritage.) From a technical standpoint, the writing in general was quite good and I had few complaints there.
Maybe I was expecting something other than what the book was actually intended to be. The blurb on the back reads "The talented authors included here have drawn upon China's rich and venerable heritage as well as the traditions and cultures of their current homelands to create imaginative and fascinating stories." and "[...] here are eighteen science fiction and fantasy visions that showcase the diversity of the Chinese experience around the world." Maybe stories that featured at least a character of Chinese descent in a foreign circumstance is exactly what the editors were going for. If so, they've definitely succeeded. Unfortunately, that's just not quite what I expected or wanted, and I was ultimately a little disappointed.