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New in New jacket. 232 p. Finlay says he thinks of these 14 stories as apprentice work toward his novel The Prodigal Troll (2005), yet all are at least of journeyman quality. They show Finlay exploring a variety of genres, bringing freshness and intelligence to them all. His Lovecraft tribute artfully refrains from disclosing itself as such, especially stylistically, until the penultimate page. His zombie adventure ends not in horror or triumph but in dreadful doubt, especially for readers. Despite their military milieus and in-space settings, The Seal Hunter and The Political Officer are as focused on characters and interactions rather than slam-bang histrionics as any mainstream novel of suburbia. Still Life with Action Figure, a particularly realist exercise, actually occurs in suburbia, where an artist son visits his artist father, who has resumed painting despite suffering from parkinsonism. The satires Pervert and A Game of Chicken take lively and imaginative aim at already shot-riddled targets (straight-male bashing and bioengineering, respectively), and Wild Thing exposes the fairy-addled backstory of the chivalric hero Perceval. In all, an absorbing, often-surprising collection. --Booklist.
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