by Jo Walton; Jo Walton; Jo Walton
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Pub Date 23 Feb 2018 | Archive Date 15 May 2018
“Exquisitely written feats of imagination, each one leaving an impression long after it’s done.”
Kelley Armstrong, author of Bitten and Rituals
In her first collection, award-winning novelist Jo Walton (Among Others, The King’s Peace, Necessity) delivers both subtle legends and reinvented realities. An ancient coin cyber-spies on lovers and thieves. The magic mirror sees all but can do nothing. A cloned savior solves a fanatically-inspired murder. Three Irish siblings thieve treasures with bad poetry and the aid of the Queen of Cats.
A Note From the Publisher
Praise for Starlings
A Verge Sci-Fi and Fantasy Book You’ll Want to Read in January
A Chicago Tribune New Short Story Collection Worth Reading
A Barnes & Noble Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Book of January 2018
An Unbound Worlds Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy Book of February 2018
“This collection of fiction and poetry from Hugo- and Nebula-winner Walton (The Just City) showcases her trademark focus on genre and philosophical questions . . . fans of the [short] form will have plenty to appreciate.”
“Starlings isn't really a short-story collection. It's something better:
a written showreel, illustrating yet again that [Walton’s] imagination stretches
to the stars (or the starlings), and that she's endlessly inventive in finding
new methods to express it.
“Walton's diverse collection of stories and poems sparkles with originality and fun. The joy of this book will linger with me for a while.”
—Beth Cato, author of The Clockwork Dagger
“Starlings is a showcase of Jo Walton's diverse talents—a collection too varied to be summed up in a few words. From fairytale fantasy to hard science fiction, from laugh-aloud play script to finely crafted poetry, with a writing experiment or two thrown in, Starlings should delight Walton's existing fans and garner many new ones.”
—Juliet Marillier, author of Daughter of the Living Forest
“Stephen King once wrote that ‘a short story is like a kiss in the dark from a stranger’—that is, sudden, pleasant, mysterious, dangerous, and exciting—and the collected short fiction of Jo Walton is exemplary of the principle.”
—Cory Doctorow, author of Little Brother
“Jo Walton's short writings have for decades been among the things that make the Internet worthwhile. She makes science fiction illuminate life. This collection lives up to its title: iridescent, dark, gregarious, talkative and ever ready to fly up.”
—Ken MacLeod, author of Newton’s Wake and the Corporation Wars series
“Reading this collection felt like watching a wizard at the cauldron having fun with new spells . . . I recommend this collection to anyone who enjoys fantasy, Jo Walton’s previous works, or wants to try shorter works before committing to longer ones.”
“Jo Walton’s delightful collection, Starlings, runs the gamut from homemade fairy tales to hard-boiled cloned-Jesus detectives (just wait for the shaggy dog); to a play with figures out of Irish myth, and a talking dragon; to a selection of her fantastic poems. It’s the kind of collection you can glide through, often while laughing out loud.
—Gregory Frost, author of Shadowbridge
“One of the things I love about Walton’s work is her range of human possibility, from laughter to horror, but above all a reveling in profligate beauty. This collection celebrates the best in the human spirit.”
—Sherwood Smith, author of Rebel and Revenant Eve
“Multiple award-winning science fiction and fantasy author Jo Walton’s first short fiction collection is a captivating array of fairy tales, mythology, space fiction, machine sentience, alien encounters, heaven, and more.”
“I recommend Starlings to lovers of science fiction and fantasy who want bite-sized
pieces to enjoy and savor. It's an eclectic mix of themes and tones, some
humorous and some dark, that will keep you guessing.”
—Den of Geek
“As varied, as skilled, as intriguing as her
novels, this is a stunning collection of stories, vignettes, poetry and more.”
—Best Science Fiction Books
Walton’s frank self-assessments, the collection offers an incredible sense of
intimacy. It’s the closest we’ll come to understanding how Jo Walton’s dizzying
writer’s mind ticks along, and how her imagination flows. It’s a rare
opportunity, to peek in on the inventor in her workshop. Starlings is
revelatory not only as a collection of fiction, but as a sort of biography of
the process of writing itself. Fascinating.”
—Barnes and Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog
focused, and fresh.”
“5/5 stars. There wasn’t anything that I didn’t like about
[Starlings]. It ticked all boxes for me.”
The Misadventures of a Reader
and wonderful imagination at work.”
—Emerald City Book Review
“A master class
in studying technique, form, and ending stories with zingers.”
"Walton’s honesty and bold confidence gives this
collection its edge; her voice and passion is clear throughout and many of the
themes and ideas she weaves into her stories are thought-provoking and
resonant. A strong collection from a giant of fiction."
“Walton’s writing is as good as ever. But what really shines
through this collection is the calibre of Walton’s ideas.”
“Lovely and artful, a
definite must read for 2018.”
—A Bookish Beginning
“Recommended, and not
just for Walton completists!”
—Big Book Balloon
“Displays Walton’s formidable erudition, and her
fascination with the various forms stories can take . . . Starlings as
a whole may be the most interesting anatomy of that imagination than we’ve yet
seen in one volume.”
Praise for Jo Walton
“Brilliant, compelling, and, frankly, unputdownable.”
“As before, Walton has done a superb job of world building and character development, giving readers a novel that both stimulates and satisfies.”
—Booklist, starred review
“There’s more substance here than in many actual philosophy books.”
On Among Others
“A wonder and a joy.”
—New York Times
“Never deigning to transcend the genre to which it is clearly a love letter, this outstanding (and entirely teen-appropriate) tale draws its strength from a solid foundation of sense-of-wonder and what-if.
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“There are the books you want to give all your friends, and there are the books you wish you could go back and give your younger self. And then there’s the rare book, like Jo Walton’s Among Others, that’s both.”
On The King’s Peace
“The King’s Peace is the novel that The Mists of Avalon shouldhave been.”
—Debra Doyle, author of School of Wizardry
“Walton writes with an authenticity that never loses heart, a rare combination in a genre where we are so often offeredone or the other.”
—Robin Hobb, author of Assassin’s Apprentice
“There is not an ill-written sentence . . . Never lacks immediacy or loses its historical quality.”
Planned publicity and marketing
Promotion at major trade and genre conventions, including BEA, Readercon, the World Science Fiction and Fantasy conventions
Features, interviews, and reviews targeting TRADE, literary, and genre venues, including the Washington Post, NPR, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and the San Francisco Chronicle
Author appearance tour dates TBD
Planned galley distribution and book giveaways to include NetGalley, Goodreads, Edelweiss, Tor.com, and additional online outlets
Advertising and promotion in national print, online outlets, and social media
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 118 members
This is unmistakeably a Walton collection. Even if it didn't have Walton's name on the cover, I would be able to tell it is her by the style, the voice, the sensibility. In the introduction, Walton claims not to be able to write short stories, but there are some really successful ones here. I particularly enjoyed the brief retelling of Snow White and "Three Twilight Tales", a riff on fairytale-like storytelling. "Jane Austen to Cassandra" is worth mentioning for the humour. But I think that my favourite is "Sleeper", which marries an interesting sf concept (an artificial intelligence construct becoming part of the experience of reading a biography) with the issue of the impossibility of a thorough biography. There are also a few stories which constitute more of an experiment or a joke, but they were fascinating to read nonetheless.
I have to admit I enjoyed the short stories more than the play or the poems (with the possible exception of the eponymous "Starlings"). The play's beginning was promising, but then it went on and on intermineably.
Overall though, I would say that this is a collection worth reading, especially, but not only if you are a Jo Walton fan. Her voice shines through all the texts in this volume, and after reading most of her novels, it was lovely to be able to read more of her output - and with the author's own commentary, too!
Although this is my first experience of Jo Walton's writing , it is almost certainly not my last. Described in the introduction as something of a miscellany rather than a cohesive collection, a mix of short stories, poetry and writing exercises, at first I was not sure how much I would enjoy the book. Within the first couple of pieces, I am happy to say, I was completely sold, and in fact I really enjoyed almost every single story in the collection. As the author admits, it is definitely a diverse blend, largely drawing on the genres of science fiction and fantasy, and largely successful in both fields. While some stories are based on well known fairytales, but seen from a new angle, such as On the Wall, a Snow White based piece, others while feeling fairy tale like are wholly original creations like Three Twilight Tales. While I liked these stories, I really loved some of the more sci fi based ones, particularly The Panda Coin which uses the transfer of a coin from one character to another to give us a glimpse into a futuristic world, and Turnover, a story set on a multi generational starship that questions the right of one generation to determine the future for another. The book also had some very interesting humorous pieces, most notably for me What would Sam Spade do? a fun riff on the noir genre with a sci fi twist. The book also has a short play based on an Irish myth which was fun for me to read, and some interesting poetry, but neither spoke to me in the way that most of the stories did. No matter how short or silly a story was, I almost always found something in it that appealed to me as a reader, and for that reason I loved this book , it was a perfect introduction to a new ( to me ) author and piqued my interest enough to go add several of her other books to my to read list
As a kid, I and my sibs had candy so seldom that I could make a pack of M&Ms last for weeks, allowing myself one a day. I’d nibble that single candy with my front teeth so that it took longer to enjoy, until it began to melt in my fingers.
I have the same approach to short pieces of fiction I know I’m going to enjoy, and so it was with Starlings, Jo Walton’s collection of short work.
I say ‘short work’ because it’s not merely short stories. In fact, Walton claims in the introduction that there’s only one true short story in the collection. The rest are attempts, first chapters, experiments, and then there is her wonderful poetry (including a biographical poem that alone is worth the price of admission) and a play that had me cracking up so much I startled the dog. (How I’d love to do that play in a readers’ theater reading!)
Anyway, I portioned these out over weeks, permitting myself to read only one at a time right before bed. (This was only a mistake once, when I encountered a piece so very dark in humor that it was basically extremely effective horror. To get the images out of my head I had to bring out the big guns: listening to Ralph Vaughn Willams’ In Windsor Forest and reread some P.G. Wodehouse before I dared sleep. At least it was a very short piece!)
At the end of each, Walton talks about the inspiration behind it, sometimes evaluating it, and giving the history of publication. These notes are especially interesting to fellow writers, as well as for those who enjoy looking behind the stage curtain.
What to say about the pieces themselves? It’s interesting that the ‘true’ short story that Walton picked came way after my own selection for which one it had to be. This raises the question of what exactly constitutes a short story. Each of these could spark debate on that question alone, before we get to the ideas. None of these pieces is predictable, pretty much every one of them could be called a chapter one to a wonderful novel, or else a fine example of flash fiction, or a fictional riff. Many of them could be broken up into poetry format as they are really prose poems.
One of my favorites was the short story “Turnaround,” which takes place in a restaurant over lunch on an enormous spaceship that is destined for a new planet. The sfnal elements are there, but so are the arts, as well as the impractical and sometimes delightfully absurd joys that make human life so great, such as musical fanfares announcing the newest dishes. One of the things I love about Walton’s work is the celebration of human possibility, choice, and a reveling in profligate beauty. This story evokes that, the best in the human spirit.
The voice, or tone, or mode of these pieces varies so widely. Walton is so flexible when it comes to narrative voice. The opening story, “Three Twilight Tales,” reads as if told by a storyteller over the firelight on a wintry night. The dream-world of fairy tales is evoked through prose that slips into poetry just often enough to be enchanting.
Very different is the tight, wry voice of the next piece, a very short one called “Jane Austen to Cassandra.” And different from both is the eerie tone of “On the Wall,” which is in essence a novel contained in a short piece, because once the reader figures out who this is, they know exactly where it’s going, and it stops at exactly the right moment for maximum effect.
They’re all like this, wildly different in tone and effect, and yet there are flashes of themes from her novels here and there, and glimpses of characters, for instance I thought I saw Krokus from the Thessaly novels in “What a Piece of Work.”
The collection finishes up with the play mentioned above, “Three Shouts on a Hill,” and more of her wonderful poetry.
I wish this were coming out before the end of the year, as I can think of three people I’d buy it for as a holiday gift, but OTOH there are always birthdays, ha ha!
Jo Walton's Starling is a whimsical collection of short stories. You can find fairy tales, sci-fi, magical realism, satire, mythology, exercises and poems. All these stories are imbued with fantasy and a wonderful writing style that carries you effortlessly from one page to the next. Each story is a world of their own. Their style, tone, narrative and POV also changes from story to story but they are all similar in that they posses an enchanting "out of this world" feeling to them.
The unpredictability when going from one story to the next made my reading experience even more enjoyable; I didn't know what to expect and needed to clear my mind so I could welcome the next story. It was exciting to speculate what kind of world would come next, would it be on earth? space? or inside a fairy tale?. I let myself be carried away by Walton's prose and poems and fully enjoyed it. Some stories felt perfect as is, while others left me wishing there was more. At the end of each one, an afterword is included telling us about her inspiration or purpose on writing each piece and information about previous publications.
My favorite stories where:
Three Twilight Tales: 3 tales that take place in the same village, in a cozy inn warmed by a fireplace. The first one concerning a man made of moonshine, the second one a peddler selling wondrous items and the third, a king in search for adventure. I loved the atmosphere, the detailed descriptions of the place and the unexpected endings for each tale.
On the Wall: related to a well known fairy tale, we get to know a different side of the story from the point of view of an unexpected secondary character.
The Panda Coin: an science fiction exercise where a series of stories unfold in chains as a coin passes from hand to hand, thus allowing us to know the story of its handler and, as the story progresses, gives us a clearer picture of this bizarre world. I really liked the idea of a coin being the key that connects one character to the other and pushes the story forward. As with the other stories, you never guess how it will develop or end until it happens.
Since the beginning, Walton warns us that short stories is not her forte and that most of the stories are not even real short stories but, for example, exercises, first chapters or prose poems. I really didn't mind that, I found those apparently imperfect pieces to be full of wonderful ideas, worlds and emotions that left me smiling, dreaming and craving for more.
Starlings is a collection of short fiction – short stories, poetry, and everything in between. They are mostly scifi with a sprinkling of fantasy and a side of religion and mythology. There are literary allusions, historical snippets, some alternate history. Some of it's confusing and some of it's disturbing and some of it's funny and some of it's inspired, and I suspect every reader will find different ones tickles their fancy.
Personally, my favourites were Jane Austen to Cassandra, Turnover, Tradition, and A Burden Shared. It shows great talent that these four are such different stories; I never felt like this collection got dull or repetitive. If you’re looking for some entertaining light reading, pick up Starlings.
I received a copy of this story from the author through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
What I liked: The mix of genres and formats made for different reading experience that I really enjoyed. There was a story that really tugged at my heart as a parent and daughter. I can't go into detail but if you are a parent it will get you too. The poems where a pleasure to read; Godzilla poems how can you not love that. It was an intelligent and fun read. Walton's writing style was a delight to read.
What I didn't like: There wasn't anything that I didn't like about the book. It ticked all boxes for me.
Star Rating: 5
My thoughts: I have lots of thoughts about Starlings the genre mix between sci-if and fantasy was brilliant and well executed. The play didn't really work for me written out as a play per see but the story behind the play was really good so I can't fault Walton on that. I've only see that done in one other book that I have read lately. The cover art is beautiful and I enjoyed the prologue by Walton. Just an aside the picture does not do this gorgeous cover justice.
Starlings is a short story collection by Jo Walton, author of such books as the Hugo and Nebula award winning Among Others as well as the Small Change trilogy, beginning with Farthing, and the Thessaly trilogy, beginning with The Just City. Starlings is Walton’s first collection of short fiction—as she mentions in the introduction, Walton is better known for novels. But it’s not just short fiction—the book is sandwiched by poetry too: a poem at the beginning to introduce us and then a whole host to round us off at the end.
Walton tells us in the introduction to the collection that spent a while writing short stories without actually knowing how to write short stories. When this is pointed out, I think you can tell. Walton’s stories are weirdly shaped—they don’t necessarily travel or end where you’d expect them to. This doesn’t make them bad, mind you. Walton’s writing is as good as ever. But what really shines through this collection is the calibre of Walton’s ideas.
The collection takes on myths, fables, stories and histories and in almost every story I was captured by Walton’s inventiveness. From ‘Remember the Allosaur’, in which Cedric, a talking allosaurus, desperately wants to give his Hamlet, to ‘What Would Sam Spade Do?’ in which the future holds a race of clones of Jesus.
Walton fully embraces the silliness of some of her subjects. What may be my favourite of the collection, ‘Three Shouts on a Hill’ is a playscript about three children of an Irish lord and their pastiched mythic adventures. I can’t even begin to describe the madness and hilarity and also sadness and defiance of this story—it reminds me of Monty Python and Tom Stoppard at once. This ridiculousness runs through the collection like a delightful vein. See also: the Godzilla Sonnets(!).
Speaking of the poetry, sometimes it feels as if in a mixed collection poetry can take second fiddle to the prose. I don’t feel this happened here. Jo Walton’s poetry—which she admits she is a better hand at than short fiction—is deft and deep. I enjoyed every single poem. There are more myths and legends here, and Walton turns them upside-down and inside-out and looks at them from odd angles.
The title of this collection, ‘Starlings’, has a dual meaning that the opening poem unfolds. We know the little oil-coloured bird that flies in dazzling murmurations in their flocks. But a starling could also be a young star, as yet incomplete but beginning to shine. That’s what I get from these stories: the light from these artifacts of Walton’s past only just reaching me now, unformed and odd and very often beautiful.
I was recommended two different books by Jo Walton (The Just City and My Real Children, specifically) and while I unfortunately haven't managed to get a copy of either of those, after reading those two blurbs my thoughts were pretty much "I want to live in this person's brain". Jo Walton seemed to be an author with incredibly creative and unique ideas, and I wanted to read something of hers. Thus, I picked up Starlings.
Starlings is a collection of short pieces of writing, both in prose and in verse. I admit that not all of the short stories worked for me and I didn't like most of the poems (note: there were fewer poems than short stories), but that's expected in collections. There were still several stories that I adored, and I am now even more excited to be picking up more of Jo Walton's work in the future.
Since there were so many stories (around 21 short stories and 15 poems), it would be difficult to review all of them, so let me say a few words about my favourites. Some of these are only one or two pages long and yet they absolutely blew me away. More than anything, what really grabbed me was how different all these stories were from each other, and how many topics they covered.
Relentlessly Mundane: I may be biased, but this one had one of my favourite concepts/tropes, and carried it out beautifully. What happens to the children who become the heroes of fantasy worlds and then have to go back to live in their own? How do they deal with their past experiences as adults?
Out Of It: A story about angels, devils, and making deals with them. "You never give up, do you?" "Never."
Parable Lost: An interesting take on the parable of throwing jellyfish in the sea.
Tradition: A short sci-fi story about traditions with an endearing twist.
What Joseph Felt: A few beautiful pages from the perspective of the Bible's Joseph and his views on his wife and newborn child.
The Need to Stay the Same: I absolutely loved this one. It's a book review of a book where humans are a fictional race.
A Burden Shared: Is it really easier to carry someone else's pain than your own?
Since most of these stories are short, it's difficult to say a lot about them without spoiling the whole thing (and often, it's not really the plot that is interesting but the writing, so summing them up is difficult). In any case, this collection had some amazing short stories (and the poems were alright too I suppose). There's some sci-fi, something more like fantasy, some Greek and Norse mythology, some Christian mythology... A little something for everyone, really.
My rating: ★★★★★
This is an absolutely lovely collection of short stories and poetry and a play.
The stories are varied -- mixing sci-fi and fantasy and almost-realism, different lengths, different degrees of separation from our reality. There are stories that seem like they tumbled out of Brothers Grimm and stories that are biblical and stories that are gritty and stories that are funny. There were tons of literary/mythological allusions, but nothing felt unoriginal. One story -- a retelling of Snow White -- was told from the mirror's perspective, and was so otherworldly I didn't realize it was about Snow White until the end.
It's impressive how they all obviously came from one person, but don't feel redundant. That's extremely difficult to do in a short story collection. Either the stories are too the same or too different -- but not here.
I'm giving this book five stars because I simply adored it. That said, I only read about 92% of the book (according to my Kindle). I didn't even try to read the poetry section, to tell you the truth. I despise poetry, and didn't want to let that interfere with how happy I was while reading the rest. Is this cheating?
This was honestly a pleasure to read. I've had Jo Walton books on my tbr for a while because I always read their summaries and think "that's so cool!", and after this collection I'm super excited to actually dive into them. Each of these stories had a unique and interesting premise, and was executed superbly. I'm often left with a feeling of "that was too little" or "that was too much" after short stories, but these were just right. The poetry was also an interesting addition, and went well with the atmosphere of the short fiction.
Jo Walton, Starlings (2017)
What if one of Jane Austen’s letter wasn’t sent to her sister Cassandra but Troy war’s Cassandra?
What if the old woman didn’t really suffer from dementia but was actually visited by aliens?
What if Joseph told his own version of the Annunciation?
What if Google’s search engine wanted to act morally by orienting some of its answers to our questions?
What if people sent a spaceship to colonize another planet in a few generations, but that their descendants no longer wanted to go there?
What if kids who had saved the world with magical powers during their childhood (Narnia style) grew up to become accountant, art historian and fake fortune tellers?
What if a fairy was discovered in the garden by an unimpressed 5-year-old?
What if the magic mirror from Snow White’s evil queen could speak for itself?
What if aliens did write SF books about a weird world full of creatures called “humans”?
What if clone technology had permitted anyone to give birth to a baby Jesus (and what would they grow up to become)?
These are a few of the numerous questions that Jo Walton set about to answer. The book is a mixed bag of short stories (some flash fiction), poetry, even a play and a writer’s bio in verse (that one is a keeper). A lot are funny, a few are set in dystopian worlds, a few are rather dark but not many. I chose this book on Netgalley a bit randomly, because the name rang a bell and I wanted to read some short story in genres that I don’t usually read. I’m glad I took this chance, because it was worth it, and the stories never took themselves too seriously (something I often fear when it comes to SF). Between the time I started and finished the collection, I read another Jo Walton, Farthing (which I reviewed first) so I’m now convinced that this prolific writer can indeed write great stories in a wide range of topics and tones.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.
Jo Walton is a beautiful writer, and this book is no exception. A stunning work that I will no doubt return to in the future.
Jo Walton does it again in this beautiful compilation. Even her story fragments are beautiful and startling. These poems and tales are little glimpses into one of the richest and most powerful imaginations at work in fantasy today.
Jo Walton is an auto buy author for me. A wonderful writer whose love of reading and genre fiction keeps every single piece of her work different and delightful. A fantastic author for our students to study and enjoy.
Jo Walton never ceases to amaze me with her gentle and comforting writing. I've read her back list and was so looking forward to a collection of short stories. I was in now way disappointed. My favorite underrated (woefully so) author does it again with this poignant collection of stories from who I consider to be one of the greatest story tellers of our time. 5/5
Absolutely wonderful. It isn't a completely traditional collection of short stories, which she freely admits in the introduction. It's more satisfying than just a sampling of experimental fragments, though. I always love Walton's voice, and the way she argues so passionately for creativity and expression and compassion through her writing - that's how I feel it, anyway. I received an ecopy of this through NetGalley.
Goodreads review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/239099525
Amazon review submitted
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