I'll certainly agree with the marketing wonks that prepared the cover blurbs for Steven Carper's "Tyrannosaur Faire". This collection of short stories is innovative, to say the least, and, just as the editors suggested, they defy conventional classification.
Fantasy? To a certain extent!
Mainstream? Sometimes! But one of the stories, "Goggle a Frog, Kiss a Prince", is so far away from mainstream, it's actually a parody or a spoof of cyberpunk, a genre which is generally thought to be a few miles off the usual trodden literary path.
Let's just say that Steve Carper, a graduate of the fiction writing classes offered by Hugo and Nebula Award winner Nancy Kress, is a clever and entertaining writer whose fertile imagination flits from topic to topic like a punch-drunk moth lost in a fireworks display - dinosaurs working a country fair ("One Long Summer Night Over at the Tyrannosaur Faire"), relativistic space travel ("Forever, With Diamond"), wish-giving witches and the perils of getting what you wish for ("The Taste of Worms"), a timely tale of a delightfully novel cure for a pandemic flu virus ("A Kiss Isn't Just a Kiss"),a curious story that blends Jewish and Chinese mysticism ("Pity the Poor Dybbuk") and even a heart-warming futuristic vision of the venerable institution of marriage ("Grafts on the Memory Tree"). Nobody would ever say that Steven Carper's short stories are stuck in a plot rut!
But, the quality is far from uniform. Charles Dickens would almost certainly suggest that "Tyrannosaur Faire" is a combination of the best of stories and the worst of stories! Most notably, the moral or point of the tale which provided the title for the entire collection escaped me completely. On the other hand, I'm absolutely thrilled to say that "Forever, With Diamond" struck me as perhaps the finest, most exciting and most innovative short sci-fi story that I've ever been privileged to read. (And that's mighty high praise indeed since I'm including the very gods of sci-fi writing such as Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clarke, RA Heinlein) The amount of science that Steve Carper managed to stuff into this story and still keep it sensible is almost breathtaking - relativistic space travel on an asteroid, teleportation, quantum nanotechnology, virtual reality, time dilation, molecular genetics and the deceleration of the aging process, polymer based artificial organ replacements and more. And, if you can believe it, all of this was placed into the context of an obsessive love story. Now, that's some piece of brilliant writing!
A grudging one-star deduction for the couple of stories that didn't quite make the grade reduced a wonderful five star reading reverie to a mere four star anthology well worth your time and effort. Now that ain't too bad, is it?