This book brings together nearly all of Card's stories, from his first publications in 1977 to work as recent as last year. 46 stories are divided into five sections encompassing a wide range of fiction, with commentary on each particular genre.
This collection will take you everywhere. From fantasy, to science fiction, to horror, and art. I highly recommend Maps in a Mirror. Get it today, and you'll be hooked on OSC!
Card's short fiction has always exceeded in power, beauty, and universalism the long fiction which he produces at such a prolific rate. This is mainly due to his tendency to explain nuances of his characters in his longer works literally, rather than allowing the reader to understand them through diligent observation. In his short fiction, however, he routinely abandons this "lowest common denominator" method, much to the empowerment of his prose.
The appeal of Card's work is similar to that of film wunderkind Steven Spielberg. At his worst, he is unflinchingly manipulative, such as in the story "Lost Boys," the original source for his later popular novel (cf. "The Color Purple"); at his best, his narration remains remote enough not to overpower with sentimentalism, as in "Unaccompanied Sonata" (cf. "Schindler's List"). A few works seem to be unnecessary literary exercises taken to extremes ("Damn Fine Novel") but, as is Card's trademark, a constant theme of sin/redemption runs through most of the stories. While drawing upon the Mormon experience, Card is unafraid to avoid simple moral chiaroscuro in favor of the gray areas for which good fantastic fiction is so well tailored.
The perfection of some of these tales lies in the simplicity of the telling. Card seems to have adhered to the ethic that informs Native American and Far Eastern oral traditions, wherein the narrator becomes only an instrument for the audience, and never intrudes as either arbitrator or alibi. It is in their peculiar mixture of triumph and tragedy that Card's stories delight, whether described through whimsy or dread.
The book's five segments, roughly described respectively as horror, science fiction, fantasies, parables, and miscellanea, comprise most of the author's published (and some unpublished) works up from 1977-1990. Particularly recommended: "Unaccompanied Sonata," "Quietus," "The Porcelain Salamander," A Plague of Butterflies," "Gert Fram."
The book is divided into sections, each with a unifying theme: horror, classic science fiction, fantasy, parables, religion & ethics, and a mix of miscellaneous works. "The Changed Man," "Flux," "Maps in a Mirror," "Monkey Sonatas," and "Cruel Miracles" were also published as individual paperbacks, but "Lost Songs," which contains, among other things, the original short version of "Ender's Game," is only available in the comprehensive hardcover edition.
Every facet of OSC's brilliance is displayed in this collection. His longer works, while also brilliant, have an unfortunate tendency to lag at points, but in short form he shines. Though not all the stories are of equal quality (hey, everyone has bad days), none are bad, and many are things of beauty and power. My personal favorites include "A Thousand Deaths," "Freeway Games," "Saving Grace," "Kingsmeat," "The Porcelain Salamander," "The Best Day," "I Think Mom and Dad Are Going Crazy, Jerry," and, of course, "Unaccompanied Sonata."
Be aware: some of these stories contain graphic and disturbing images. They also contain disturbing ideas. But no one writes speculative literature better than OSC at his best, and this book has a lot of his best.