SciFi Monkeys and TANSTAAFL Press brings you a review of
Transmutations of Fire and Void by Matthew P. Buscemi
Overall Grade: B (See Tom’s notes on how he grades)
Summary: I’ve mentioned before that I don’t like anthologies but like zombie books I keep ending up with them in my hands. I wonder if there might be some sort of addiction thing going on here. I traded one of my titles for Transmutations of Fire and Void from Matthew at RadCon in Washington.
Matthew pulls no punches in Transmutations by writing some very speculative fiction. Some of it truly inspired, like the pieces entitled “Binary”, “Xenosociology”, and “Lunar Eclipse”, and some of it fell dreadfully flat like “Temple of the Setting Sun”. Others just drove a sense of unreality, like “Right and Proper” or “The Keyhole”.
Transmutations epitomizes exactly all of the things that I love and hate in anthologies especially from a single author — namely the unevenness from one work to the next. Let’s face it that we all have our good and bad days as an author. We also have our good and bad ideas for a story. This book carries both. On the whole it engaged me enough to read all of the stories except one. This is a feat I think only equaled by Stephen King’s Night Shift.
If you don’t mind the bumpy ride, run out and grab a copy.
Transmutations show a willingness take chances on an idea that might be the greatest idea since the Foundation Saga by Asimov. In fact the story “Lunar Eclipse” is very reminiscent of that master’s work.
It also showed a broad range of author Matthew Buscemi. He can write hard sci-fi to fantasy. There is even a bit of free form verse within. This work shows an intimate knowledge of how to set a scene or when not to do so. One story, “The Bazrath”, is nothing more than two people texting. It still manages to convey a sense of character arc and it told a compelling story.
I also felt comforted that each different character in the book, even those in the same story, had his, her, or its own voice. This reviewer has read way too much fiction by the same author where the only change happened to be that of name.
I liked how fitting that “Binary” was the very last story. I might have liked another one (very similar and linked) at the very beginning to close the arc. Even by itself “Binary” captured my attention and drew me in.
Not So Good:
Transmutations shows a willingness take chances on an idea that might ride itself down in flames like the Hindenburg. My personal loathing is reserved in this case for “Temple of the Setting Sun”. I couldn’t read the whole work and skipped ahead to see if anything actually happened that would get me to trudge through the muck. Like I said before, we all have our good days and bad days.
The tone of the book is jarring as the stories don’t fit together in any way – there is no theme. By the same token I thought the roughness of it all could have been smoothed with a different ordering of stories or even perhaps grouping other stories of similar bent and removing those that didn’t quite meet the arc of the book.