- Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow
Four stylistically brilliant novellas offer readers a range of exquisite reading experiences in this collection. The first suggests Christian allegory, as a sentient scarecrow tries to protect his beloved farm from an evil intruder bent on stealing the farmer's secret for growing living toys. The intruder can only manage to grow soulless homunculi, and hence covets the secret behind creating toys that can think and act for themselves. The next story puts a science-fiction spin on exploitation and genocide, as a large corporation promises a nanotech revolution that is in fact decimating whole continents as nano-machines mine natural resources, including humans, for molecules to transform into consumer commodities for the wealthy. The third tale offers a heartbreaking fantasy of wishes gone awry: effectively expressed wishes become embodied and must be rounded up by the wish police, a [End Page 218] group of supernatural folk charged with making sure the world proceeds as it should for better or worse, without the intervention of wishes. When an angry boy wishes his family dead, an enigmatic djinn with a jaded, snarky fish in his pocket teams up with a new partner who is not what she seems (that is, an extraordinarily tall leprechaun) to prevent murder and mayhem in what turns out to be a poignant family drama. Finally, a fairy tale-ish love story told by Death brings the funny to round out the emotional richness of the collection. Nayeri's storytelling finesse is on full display here, as he creates characters and spins plots out of breathtakingly vivid wordsmithery; each story features language uniquely suited to its ambience and desired emotional effects, whether it be through clever wordplay in chapter titles, futuristic technojargon, a deliciously turned phrase, or a particularly apt metaphor. Language lovers as well as those who appreciate the artistry of a perfectly compact novella will consider this collection a treasure.