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The Baum Plan for Financial Independence: And Other Stories The Baum Plan for Financial Independence: And Other Stories by John Kessel

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“Genre-blending,” to me, usually means”genre+literary” (whatever “literary” means). But a lot of the blending in this collection is “genre + genre,” as in the historical-crime/fantasy story “Every Angel is Terrifying,” or the future-crime/sci-fi first movement of the Lunar Quartet, “The Juniper Tree.”

Kessel’s historical/literary mash-ups were brilliant, too: Orson Welles in a sci-fi story (“It’s All True”)–who’d have thought? The name and spirit of Tyler Durden carrying on in a lunar colony in the second movement of the Lunar Quartet, “Stories for Men.” “Pride and Prometheus” is a Nebula award winner for good reason!

My favorite thing, from a technical standpoint, is the near-flawless worldbuilding in each story, done such that the story’s obvious themes are never heavy-handed or preachy.

What made it one star short of five was the third movement of The Lunar Cycle. The cycle is comprised of 4 stories, one of them almost 80 pages long–and we all know how I feel about stories that go on longer than the average story by Etgar Keret or Lydia Davis. Oddly enough, I loved the longest story (“Stories for Men”). It was the significantly shorter story immediately after it, “Under the Lunchbox Tree.” It’s obviously supposed to be more low-key, but it still seems anticlimactic.

You can download the collection for free, from Small Beer Press, in multiple formats. I did, and I immediately knew I had to have the TPB.

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