From Publishers Weekly
A commitment to experimental structure and oddball elements provides this debut collection's consistency, but they often devolve into a kind of self-conscious blandness that blunts the stories' impact. In "The Caliber," a high school girl's fantasy-turned-comic-nightmare about her lost uncle and a shadowy federal agent provides the structure for a complex tale where layered foreshadowing threatens to thicken to pudding. The darkly humorous allegorical experience of married archeologists largely consists of the narrator's wife digging a hole in their living room in "The Excavation." In "Quiver," a Wal-Mart employee stumbles into a group of medieval time travelers (by virtue of a contact through her ex-husband, a monster truck driver) and thwarts their destructive plan; this story rocks along with an amusing gait and an attractive tongue-in-cheek tone. The best of these 16 stories are arresting; weaker pieces—often very short ones—seem more exercise than serious compositions. (The most clever piece, "The Exchanges," is also the worst story.) But the collection argues for DeNiro as a writer to watch and bodes well for further non-self-published releases from Kelly Link's Small Beer Press. (July 1)
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Maybe the future of sf is Alan DeNiro. The title story here, set in twenty-third-century Pennsylvania, is its nameless-till-the-last--sentence narrator's university-application essay, numbered footnotes and all, which explains why not to expect him on campus anytime soon; he is in love and considering getting gills. Maybe DeNiro is the future of alternate history: in "Our Byzantium," a college town is invaded by horse-and-chariot-led soldiers who demolish cars, wheelchairs, and other machines; reestablish Greek as the lingua franca; and otherwise conquer. He could be fantasy's tomorrow, too, if the offhandedness of the impossible transformations in "The Cuttlefish," "The Centaur," "The Excavation," and "If I Leap" catches on. In "The Fourth" and "A Keeper," DeNiro is one of the most powerful, least partisan prophets of consumerist totalitarianism. "Salting the Map" confounds the distinction between artifice and reality as deftly and daftly as Andrew Crumey's Pfitz (1997) and Zoran Zivkovic's Impossible Stories (2006). The long closer, "Home of the," about Erie, Pennsylvania, now and then, is as laconic and associative as its title is elliptic. Refreshing, imaginative, funny-scary stuff. Ray Olson
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