Not So Much, Said the Cat
By Michael Swanwick
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Scott
This collection of short stories by five time Hugo award winning author Micheal Swanwick is simply a delight to read. Running the gamut between science fiction and fantasy, there is something for everyone inside this aggregate of stories. It really exemplifies ‘speculative fiction’ in the sense it originally had. Reading it is like a full blown blast into the pulp era, with highly digestible stories that will leave your head spinning.
The writing is, in a word, immaculate. There is an ultra-tight word economy in place here. A single word out of context would bring any given story to its knees and it is through, no doubt, skillful editing that this is accomplished. Not So Much, Said the Cat never aims above the readers head, and everything is, almost, believable in any particular story. Even in the most outlandish piece of intertextuality I have ever seen, Swanwick to my delight, pulls it off without a hitch. It is truly a testament to his writing that he can sustain the reader’s attention and suspension of belief at the same time in some of the most bizarre environs the reader travels.
Thematically, Swanwick pulls off new tricks in each story to stupefy the reader. The sheer range of themes cover love, life, science gone wrong, catastrophe, death before dying, amongst others. No topic is off bounds, and the aforementioned word economy helps here in spades. Given the concise nature of each story, each packs a powerful punch – K.O. at end of the story. Self-professed short story aficionado, Not So Much, Said the Cat, highlights bears testament to a thinking mind and the years of dedication that went into the painstaking process of bringing these stories to life.
Characters are treated carefully in these works. Never expanding the cast to thin, Swanwick keeps close reign on the people who populate his work, maintaining a surprisingly three-dimensional quality in most cases. Their thoughts are real, they react the way people would (for the most part) and they live and breathe in the scenarios they are involved in. Not one is out of place, nor has motives that aren’t easily discerned. The twists and turns these people are turned through, in such a confined (story-wise) space, lends added weight to their credibility and verisimilitude.
Plot is where these stories really entwine the above. In any given story there is, surprisingly, a lot of labyrinthine paths the characters must tread. Not So Much, Said the Cat, exemplifies the plot-driven story and masterfully pulls back on ‘introspective’ pieces. The sheer number of different plots boggles the mind and it’s just a minute fraction of what Swanwick has produced. The reader is engaged in every piece, and it’s a nice ‘put-down, pick-up” book that is necessary to fully digest the implications, usually social, the plots produce.
If the old adage, there’s a story in anything, holds true, Not Much, Said the Cat is proof enough it is valid. Full of life, energy and depth of concept, each individual story can (and could) appeal to anyone. This is a story collection that definitely deserves a spot on anyone’s shelf, electronic or otherwise. It’s a rare glimpse into how short stories should be constructed, and I guarantee, they’ll leave you thinking well after each story is done. High praise is in order for Swanwick’s collection.