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Review of “Near + Far” by Cat Rambo

Near + Far by Cat Rambo

ISBN-13: 978-0984830145

Publisher: Hydra House http://hydrahousebooks.com/bookstore/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=2&products_id=7

Amazon purchase link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0984830146

near + far cat rambo“Near + Far” comprises two distinct collections of stories compiled into one volume. My review is based on the electronic review copy, but I can’t help but mention the paperback.  Each volume has its own cover, and upon completion of one volume, you flip the book over to read the other. It’s a quirky little bonus for treebook aficionados, and reading about it in the book’s foreword makes me ever-so-slightly envious. The “Near + Far” refers to near future and far future stories, although on my first read-through I thought the “near” and “far” referred to geographical distance, with most of the far future stories being set on planets other than Earth.

And how to describe the contents of “Near + Far”? I’d like to say simply “Kick-ass”, but two words (or is it one, with the hyphen?) don’t really count as a review, so I’ll cover off the rest of the word count by mentioning my favourites. There was only one story that I didn’t like, and I could write at length about why I didn’t like it, but even then, the quality of the prose is faultless.

One of the things that I admire most about this collection is the way that Rambo explores similar themes throughout, yet each story is distinct, imaginative and original; it never feels like the “same old, same old”. “Therapy Buddha” is a sad and chilling story that deals with a recurring theme within the collection, of social isolation and disconnection from one’s fellow human beings, causing characters to bond with non-humans and inanimate objects.  Further excellent examples of this theme can be found in “RealFur”, “Surrogates” and “Vocobox”. The marriage in the latter http://healthsavy.com/product/strattera/ story might be dysfunctional, but the match between characters and concept is one made in heaven.

One of the themes in “Ms. Liberty Gets a Haircut” has been a fascination of mine since I was thirteen years old – what if you are a being who is created for a specific purpose, but you want to be something else? The same theme recurs in “Long Enough and Just So Long”.

“Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain” is an allegorical tale of love and betrayal, and I won’t spoil it by saying any more about it.

I know you’ve probably heard this a million times before about a million different books, but this time it’s true; if you’re a fan of exquisitely crafted speculative fiction short stories of dazzling scope and imagination, then this collection is a “must have”.

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Reviewer bio:
Tracie McBride is a New Zealander who lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and three children.  Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in over 80 print and electronic publications, including Horror Library Vols 4 and 5, Dead Red Heart, Phobophobia and Horror for Good. Her debut collection Ghosts Can Bleed contains much of the work that earned her a Sir Julius Vogel Award in 2008.  She helps to wrangle slush for Dark Moon Digest and is the vice president of Dark Continents Publishing.  She welcomes visitors to her blog at http://traciemcbridewriter.wordpress.com/.

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