Tuesday, June 19, 2018


Jo Walton
I received an eGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!
(This also means that any quotes may not read the same in the final copy.)
"[...] a universe without pain is a universe without change, without movement, without stories [...] What you have to ask yourself is whether the pain is necessary for the story."
Sometimes I request a book, receive it, and then forget why I requested it. It's a bad habit of requesting every shiny book that comes across my path and something I'm trying to stop doing. This book, though, was the most magical surprise and the best thing to come out of my bad habits. In fact, Starlings may be my favorite read of the year. It's definitely up there and it's definitely been something that changed my life for the better.

This book is a collection of short stories and poems by Jo Walton. I've never read Jo Walton before this (though I promise I'll be devouring everything she's put out). I do, however, work on a genre literary magazine for my school, and the stories here (the fact that they are not at all conventional short stories and genre short stories on top of that) reminded me of Quiver (my magazine) so much. It made my heart soar to find that in the wider world there is a home for stories like these.

Because it's a collection of short stories it's not exactly an easy book to review, at least the way I typically review books. I don't want to give away any accidental spoilers and I don't want to oversimplify what I've read. I will give some advice: read the introduction. I'm a sucker for author introductions (also, if you ever read a Neil Gaiman collection DEFINITELY read the introduction you won't be sorry) and I'm always sad to find out when someone skips out on it. This particular introduction sets the stage for the rest of the book and prepares you for the way the stories will be told. Some of the flaws some of the "short stories" have will make a lot more sense when you've read about why they were written in the first place.

The writing itself was beautiful. It was easy to get lost within and I was reading this book at work over lunch time, so that's not exactly the most reader-friendly environment, but I would forget where I was sitting or what I had been stressing over only minutes previous. Had someone tried to talk to me I probably wouldn't have noticed and I credit this to Walton's writing as much as to her stories themselves. It was also one of those rare books where I was highlighting my favorite quotes frequently. I rarely do this because things don't tend to stick out to me on the sentence level. But wow did that happen here. And I've decided to share some with you, you lucky bastards. (But really, go read the book and enjoy the complete pleasure of all the stories.)
"Meanwhile, though, well, I live in the meanwhile."
"AIDEEN: I am Aideen, a poet from Ireland come to perform before the king of the Africans. These are my brothers Kevin and Brian.
GATEKEEPER: I'm afraid you've been misinformed.
AIDEEN: In what respect?
GATEKEEPER: Africa is a continent containing an empire, several kingdoms, and an oligarchy, divided by diverse deserts, jungles, and mountainous regions, inhabited by various populations who arrange their own political affairs. It is much bigger than Europe. It does not have a  single king, any more than there's a single king of the Europeans."
"Don't bring on disaster refusing to bend
When people screw up try to act like a friend
Let humans be human and choose their own fate,
Accept the small madness to ward off the great."
"Come, peace, descend to us now
in the form
of an urban pigeon. [...]
Billing and cooing, pouting and searching,
come down to the hearts of our cities
and be everywhere taken for granted."
TL;DR Every story and poem is a treat and chances are you'll end up walking away loving a new type of genre. 

An intimate first flight of short fiction from award-winning novelist Jo Walton (Among Others, The King’s Peace).
A strange Eritrean coin travels from lovers to thieves, gathering stories before meeting its match. Google becomes sentient and proceeds toward an existential crisis. An idealistic dancer on a generation ship makes an impassioned plea for creativity and survival. Three Irish siblings embark on an unlikely quest, stealing enchanted items via bad poetry, trickery, and an assist from the Queen of Cats.

With these captivating initial glimpses into her storytelling psyche, Jo Walton shines through subtle myths and wholly reinvented realities. Through eclectic stories, subtle vignettes, inspired poetry, and more, Walton soars with humans, machines, and magic—rising from the everyday into the universe itself.
Jo Walton writes science fiction and fantasy novels and reads a lot and eats great food. It worries her slightly that this is so exactly what she always wanted to do when she grew up. She comes from Wales, but lives in Montreal.
Book cover linked to Goodreads. Book cover, and description taken from Goodreads. 


  1. That sounds so neat! It's also really cool that you forgot why you requested it in the first place and then it ended up being your favorite read (so far) for 2018. I hope the rest of the books you've requested end up being just as good!

    1. It's definitely an absolutely unique book! Thank you!

  2. I hadn't heard of it before now, but I may have to look for it. Thanks for sharing your review.

    1. I think you'd definitely love it. It's certainly unlike anything I've ever read before. Thanks for stopping by!


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