Wednesday, March 19, 2008

"A City Equal to My Desire"


A City Equal to My Desire is a collection of stories harking back to James Sallis’s early days as a writer of speculative fiction and SF, although all were produced after 1998. The book's front and back cover blurbs suggest that the collection is primarily crime and mystery fiction, which is where James is best known today, but only about a third of the stories are actually crime tales. The rest are speculative fiction and include pieces published in Asimov’s, Fantasy and SF, and Talebones.

In keeping with the marketing, the first two stories in the collection actually are crime fiction. They include “Ukulele and the World’s Pain,” which I thought was the weakest tale in the collection, and the excellent “Drive,” which Sallis later expanded into a novella of the same name that I believe is one of the best noir thrillers ever written.

For me, however, the true gems in the collection are the speculative stories, especially “Roofs and Forgiveness in the Early Dawn,” about an unusual alien invasion, “Pitt’s World,” which tells the story of a survivor of a spaceship crash, and “Telling Lives,” about a writer who has discovered a niche for himself in writing biographies of everyday people. Another great story is "Day’s Heat,” which features an unusually close set of triplets and ties with “Roofs and Forgiveness…” for my personal favorites.

Wonderful characters and character interactions are Sallis's strengths, but we also find lovely language and beautiful imagery. Be aware, however, that these are literary quality stories and the endings may not be as clear cut as some genre readers would prefer. Since I love Sallis's creativity and verve, I don't mind the lack of neat and tidy endings. His characters are alive and his tales stir both the emotions and the imagination. I highly recommend them.

24 comments:

Sidney said...

Looks like a good book to pick up.

Miladysa said...

Reads interesting :-D

Sarai said...

Huh I might have to add another book to the must read list! Thanks my TBR pile just let out a groan

benjibopper said...

i haven't read scifi in years. i dunno why, i used to love it. i should look for this one.

Josephine Damian said...

Charles: Off topic but the BookEnds thriller contest started today. You have till 9AM tomorrow to submit an entry.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sidney, I definitely enjoyed it.

Miladysa, Sallis is a superb writer.

Sarai, you're welcome, ;)

Benjibopper, A lot of it doesn't read much like Sci Fi. It's very literary but using some SF tropes.

Josephine Damian, thanks for the heads up. I'll check it out this morning.

Demon Hunter said...

Thanks for introducing me to this work, Charles. I read any genre as long as I like the story and writing. :*)

ANNA-LYS said...

Sounds interesting!!!
Thanks for recommending, I really do like to learn to express myself better, whilst I at the same time can enjoy the story-line!

Billy said...

You convinced me :)

Lana Gramlich said...

Even your book reviews are sexy...How DO you do it? ;)

ANNA-LYS said...

Thanks for linking to my blog, You are now up on my "Dar-links" *lol*

david mcmahon said...

The second-last sentence is a validation of his immense worth!

SzélsőFa said...

This review makes me want to read the book :)

Charles Gramlich said...

Demon hunter, Sallis has a good feel for characters and is also a big jazz fan.

Anna-lys, thanks for returning the link favor. I should have put yours up before but have not been feeling my best.

Billy, Sallis is also a very fine poet. I have a collection of his called "Sorrow's Kitchen" which is quite fine.

Lana, it's got to be all the sexiness spilling off of you onto me.

David McMahon, my best validation is how much I'd like to be able to write as well as he does.

Szelsofa, it's a worthy work.

And to Josephine, I entered the thriller contest a few minutes ago.

Ello said...

That looks good! Now if only I had some time to read it! I am still working on a huge backlog. Argh!

Josephine Damian said...

Charles, glad you got it in before the deadline.

Very nice opener! I could be wrong but methinks Aimless Writer just may get the nod from Jessica.

Donnetta Lee said...

I am a scifi nut. Course I like to read the oldies but goodies. This sounds very interesting. Thanks for filling us in.
Donnetta

Michelle's Spell said...

I'll check it out -- love the title!

Charles Gramlich said...

Ello, I know the feeling. A friend loaned me a book the other day and I was wondering where in the world I"m going to get it worked into my reading plan.

Josephine Damien, so far I've only checked out a few other entries.

Donnetta Lee, there's another surprise about Sallis coming up today.

Michelle, Sallis always does good titles.

William Jones said...

Thanks for pointing out this book. It sounds like it is something of a genre blend -- which is great.

Danette Haworth said...

Mystery (or scifi) with a literary feel--sounds interesting.

Travis said...

Thanks for the recommendation. I'll keep an eye out for it. I'll have to add it to the stack of 15 waiting for me.

eric1313 said...

Yeah, it's a great novel, actually, and a very quick read. It is very much about zen in the life of a young author, and how it becomes derailed and where it drives him to.

The "Something Wicked..." title is of a Bradbury novel. Also some great reading.

"To Mock A Killingbird", well, I have no idea who made that album, but the name stuck with me.

ChristineEldin said...

"Drive" is spec fiction? Cool. I didn't know that....

Loved the book. Read it after Miss Snark gave it high marks.