The Emperor of Gondwanaland and Other Stories
by Paul Di Flippo
Review by Colleen Cahill
Thunder's Mouth Press Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 1560256656
Date: 10 June, 2005 List Price $16.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Unlike Di Filippo's previous collections, which centered on a theme, such as steampunk, alternate history, or hard science fiction, this group of tales is a mix of styles and genres: as the author states, "the book does have a theme: inclusivity." Broken into six categories, the stories in The Emperor of Gondwanaland range from "Periauricular Dampness" to "Gonzo Science." Di Filippo shows his broad range of interests, starting with "Anselmo Merino," a science fiction version of a Herman Melville sea saga that mixes aliens and gothic literature. After this romantic tale tinged with horror, I learned that I did not like the characters in some of Di Filippo's works, as "My Adventures with the SPCA," has three members of the Society for Poetically Creative Anarchy that seem to me like whiners who needed to be wacked-upside-the-head, but I did read the story to its end and it has stayed with me. The power of the author's work is that you will read it even if you are not enchanted by the plot or characters. "Pulp Alibis," a series of shorts that give alternative views of the O.J. Simpson case is sure to offend everyone at some point, but the pastiche of H.R. Haggard, Walter Mitty and even the Green Hornet are as fascinating as they are disturbing.
Not that all of these stories are dark and negative: the title story "The Emperor of Gondwanaland" is about man who is totally disillusioned by his work, friends and life until he finds new hope in the imaginary Gondwanaland. "Your Gold Teeth," written with Don Webb, is surreal and eerie but with an interesting victory and a must read for any fans of the band Steely Dan. An alternate history centered on a horror writer who lives in Providence, Rhode Island is the focus of "A Monument to After-Thought Unveiled" and yes, H.P. Lovecraft is in the story, but not as you would expect. It is Di Filippo's ability to surprise the reader, to take them places far from the expected that makes this collection one that is both compelling and provoking, riveting and poignant, keeping the pages turning and the reader glued to the book.
The eighteen short stories in The Emperor of Gondwanaland have something for everyone, with humor, science, a bit of fantasy, great writing and true art that will definitely stir the emotions. It is a must-read for any fans of Paul Di Filippo and a good starting place for those who want to explore the works of this wide-ranging writer. And while I agree he will stir your emotions, I also know he will stir your mind.