Rich Horton reviews Sandra McDonald

Sandra McDonald is best known for novels which, on the face of them, are fairly conventional military SF with a romantic slant, yet those who have followed her short fiction know she’s a quirkier writer than her novels display. Diana Comet and Other Improbable Stories features 14 tales, many originals, set in a sort of alternate history that for the most part is a transparent version of our world, at times a bit too cutely. (Naming a gay Civil War era poet Whitney Waltman, for just one example, rather grates.) Indeed, some of the reprints seem to have been rejiggered to fit into this alternate history, in which a Boston-like town called Massasoit is the most common setting. But I quibble – the stories are lovely really. The title character shows up in several pieces, at various stages in her long life. My favorite appeared last year in Strange Horizons as ‘‘Diana Comet’’, and here as ‘‘Diana Comet and the Disappearing Lover’’, and it introduces that intrepid woman. Perhaps the other highlight of the collection is ‘‘Diana Comet and the Collapsible Orchestra’’, in which Diana is aging, missing her late husband, and pushed against her will to visit an old friend. The title object is a delightful creation, while the action really concerns Diana witnessing the transgression of her friend’s children, a bit sadly.

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