"She's a window through which power flows..."
Overall, a very strong collection. When asked to review, the comparative influences to Gaiman and the like made me give it a chance. Now that I've finished the collection, I saw glimmers of other authors I love to read such as Charles De Lint and Michael Moorcock.
I didn't like each entry, but in combination, this work earns a 4-star rating. Some entries did add to the display of Lamaga's imagination at play - if they'd been stand-alones, they would have been skippable. The title tale in particular, "The Evolution of Reptilian Handbags." Stronger were tales like "What Kind Are You?" and "Waking the Dreamer" ("The snake did not deceive Eve -- Eve was the snake."). These wrapped up nicely, but did make me hope that there's a larger future in the worlds Lamaga has built here. "Mr. Happy the Sharpshooter" offers as neat a twist as any classic Twilight Zone. The brittle beauty which sublimes to stony strength was well-played in "Medusa" ("After you left I turned to stone..."; "...shedding this house...") and "Black Crater, White Snow" - which called mind Cormac McCarthy's "The Road". Distorted pasts meet wavering futures in "Purple House" - not one of my favorites here but good for evidence of Lamaga's breadth. I loved the "What the Dalai Lama Said" ("...blue flats sliding over the industrial carpet like water bugs on a pond."). The weaving of the personal with the universal was direct and beautiful. A favorite passage captures love for a thing that repels or abrades, impossibly well: "I remember loving her in that moment (though never since), the way you love something that is completely alien yet perfect in itself, like a crocodile or an exploding star." The collection closer "Invisible Heist" similarly provides a sense of going out into the brightness, into whatever comes next with arms wide open.
But it was "The Seduction of Forgotten Things" that cinched this book for me. This story hit so many of my reading pleasure centers - the urban fairytale in perfect form: the sad taming of a wild thing, the decay that turns what was tame into a changeling, lost horizons, an inspection of what naming things, owning things does to the thing desired and the one claiming rights. Isabelle pushes and pushes her found friend, Alejandro, her wild thing: "All the yesterdays. Back and back. What did you do?" This exploration of "what's in a name" shows up in "What Kind Are You?" - but is better shown in this story. Think a darker "My Fair Lady" or perhaps the origin of "Beauty and the Beast".
There's good poetry in Lamaga's pen and I'll keep an eye out for future releases.
Amazon.com: Akethan's review of The Evolution of Reptilian Handbags and Ot...: