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Journal of No. 118


October 27th, 2012

Flying in the Heart of the Lafayette Escadrille, by James Van Pelt @ 01:53 pm

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Flying in the Heart of the Lafayette Escadrille collects about two dozen of James Van Pelt's short stories, and they display an impressively broad range of tone and topic, while staying within the realms of speculative fiction. Many are what I want to call fables -- not in the sense of talking animals and a pithy moral at the end. Rather, they are stories that take the real world, add just the right amount of fantasy, and with that addition manage to teach us a little bit more about the real world and real people.

I confess I didn't care very much for the title story; I didn't see much connection between the interleaved tales of WWI gallantry in the sky and modern day... angst? But many of the other stories are very good indeed. A couple of them draw from Van Pelt's day-job as a teacher, and those of us who have been in the trenches can vouch for the verisimilitude of the setting, even if we can't hope to be as inspiring as the teacher in "Mrs. Hatcher's Evaluation".

But my favorites from the collection don't have to do with school at all, though "That He Might Yet Find the Unknown" trades on another of Van Pelt's interests... running. It tells the story of the Olympics in the future, when genetically modified humans compete in the marathon. Like the best of these fables, that's what the story's about, but it's not what the story's about. I think my absolute favorite from the collection is "Rock House," a great and moody piece that is an inverted "Fall of the House of Usher" in which the house doesn't crumble, but rather becomes more solid. While the homage to Poe is clear, the story has its own tale to tell.

(Disclaimer: jimvanpelt was kind enough to send me an advance uncorrected proof of the book in return for an honest review. (and when the book appears on amazon, I'll post some version of this there.))
 
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Journal of No. 118