Songs of Leaving Hardcover – Oct 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
The best of the 12 mostly SF stories in this collection from British author Crowther (The Longest Single Note) evoke a genuine sense of wonder and offer near-miraculous restoration of hope. The title tale opens with silver spaceships departing an Earth doomed by an approaching asteroid. After some clever insights into modern culture's need for hyperbolic metaphors to understand simple reality, the story meanders into a poignant parable about resurrection and reconnection in a world where "it's impossible to figure out who's dead and who's alive." Somewhere along the way it becomes a gentle encomium to both humanity and the city of New Orleans. The deck of time and fate is shuffled and reshuffled as an assassin seeks to fulfill a contract in the well-crafted, multi-leveled "The Killing of Davis-Davis." Its time-travel theme provides the basis for both compelling action and temporal contemplation. "Setting Free the Daughters of Earth" is less technically accomplished, but no less fascinating with its premise of a drug-dependent future in which only one addictive substance is forbidden: books. Like Ray Bradbury, who is intentionally invoked, Crowther enchants as he tells deceptively simple tales of eternal truths.
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Crowther's collection opens with a magnificent homage to Ray Bradbury, "Some Burial Place, Vast and Dry" (the title is one of several references to Whitman), in which the last survivor of a lost colony remembers his home and is visited by it. Despite that tough first act, the quality of what follows remains consistent. That includes a few more tributes to Bradbury, including "Setting Free the Daughters of the Earth," a variation of Fahrenheit 451 in which one of the last bibliophiles subversively reintroduces literature to a bookless society. Crowther doesn't limit himself to thoughtful tributes. In "Heroes and Villains," he provides insight into the real life of a supervillain, for even supervillains have mothers. He also tackles such classic themes as alien visitation, time travel in the strange "Palindromic," and cloning in "A Worse Place Than Hell," in which Abraham Lincoln is lost in modern-day New York. These lovely and thoughtful stories are speculative fiction at pretty much its best, conjuring self-contained worlds that, for all the stories' brevity, teem with life. Regina Schroeder
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
However, this has to be the finest colletion of short fantasy/sf/horror stories i've read in a long time, perhaps only equalled by Crowther's most recent work *Jewels in the Dust*.
Lets give a bit of a summary, although its not easy to summarise, because the stories often work elsewhere than in the plot - the language is careful and suggestively poetic, but not pretentious.
The first tale is basically about a man somewhere on a planet who keeps eoncoutering his memories in some kind of strange floating building. Doesn't sound much but I can feel my own life and loss and continuance in the story (although it has little in common with the 'hero's') along with the wonder - what more can you ask?
The next tale The Killing of Davis Davis, is a time war - lets just say it was handled better than in Doctor who :)
The Invasion is a gentle story of an alien encounter, that does not involve killing, destruction or slavery, but perhaps does involve death and transformation.
Palindromic, is another alien encounter, a tale of good intentions gone horribly wrong, and maybe horribly right, because of a time paradox. I don't think the time paradox is quite resolved, but it doesn't really matter. The story has its implications...
In Heroes and villans, a supervillan's mother is dying of cancer, and somehow he discovers his place in the scheme of things.
There are lots of other memorable stories, in the title story the dead return, but the issue is for how long, and why.... again moving and gentle and again perhaps not.
There are some straight horrors in here, perhaps but, for me, the tales of wonder and explorations of loss, even when apparently resolved 'happily' are the high points in the collection.
If you want your horror soaked in blood, or sick then this may not be the right stuff, but if you like Ray Bradbury or Niel Gaiman (who are poetic and twisted) then you should give them a try. I'm currently searching for more of the author's work