The Very Best of Tad Williams by Tad Williams

Rating 8.3/10
A collection of 17 stories showcasing a passion for storytelling.

The very best of Tad Williams is a collection of 17 different stories that will appeal to old and new fans alike.  Whether you like Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Crime or Horror there is a story here for you. Williams has delivered another well-conceived and written book, that if nothing else is a great introduction to his works for new fans.

It would be a little hard for me (what can I say it was 17 stories!) to write a review for each of the stories, so thought it would be more beneficial to give a quick breakdown, genre and tagline for each of the stores.  In my process of selecting this book to read I found it hard to pin down information regarding the individual genres or any plot synopsis for the individual stories.  

Really, I was not sure this could be classed as a review but more an aid to the reader. The genres are what I believe the stories are written in, so they could be subjective.

  • The Old Scale Game (Fantasy)
    Think the ‘Long Con’ but with a Dragon.  Great opening line, “Flee or be broiled to crackling”.
  • The Storm Door (Sci-Fi/Horror)
    Paranormal investigation tale set during a big storm.
  • The Stranger’s Hands (Fantasy)
    Small town beings have there wish granted by an imbecilic Wizard.
  • Child of an Ancient City (Horror)
    Vampire tale told around a group of traveling merchant campfire.
  • The Boy Detective of Oz: An Otherland Story (Sci-Fi)
    Murder mystery at heart set within Otherland’s Oz.
  • Three Duets for Virgin and Nosehorn (Fantasy)
    Fanatically written and best described as three stories regarding religious perspectives.
  • Not with a Whimper, Either (Sci-Fi)
    AI theme story based in an online chat room.
  • Some Thoughts Re: Dark Destroyer (Fiction)
    Humorous email critique of the character’s manuscript by a group of peers.
  • Z is for... (Sci-Fi)
    Some hangovers just never end, and sometimes you should just stay drunk.
  • Monsieur Vergalant’s Canard (Fantasy)
    Humorous tale of Two Men and their robot Duck.
  • The Stuff that Dreams are Made Of (Crime)
    A little bit of Noir, but with Stage Magicians.
  • Fish Between Friends (Fantasy)
    Magical Fish tale, involves a man with on ears - A walk on the weird side.
  • Every Fuzzy Beast of the Earth, Every Pink Fowl of the Air (Fantasy)
    Humorous tale about when God’s little girls built the world.
  • A Stark and Wormy Knight (Fantasy)
    A humorous story about what a Dragon wants for his bedtime.
  • Omnitron, What Ho! (Fantasy/Sci-Fi)
    One man and his robot must stop a wedding at all costs.
  • Black Sunshine (Horror)
    Written like a movie script. Main premise is drugs are bad!
  • And Ministers of Grace (Fantasy)
    Religious Assassination of a Prime Minister by the self styled Hand of God.

My favourites:

Every Fuzzy Beast of the Earth, Every Pink Fowl of the Air - this is what happens when you take your eyes of kids just for a second.
A Stark and Wormy Knight - who doesn’t love a bedtime story.

The work regardless of the story is typical Williams, well constructed and thought-out, at times a little preachy for my taste but otherwise any reader would be very happy to pick up this work up.
Fergus McCartan, 8.5/10

In the introduction to this collection of short stories by Tad Williams, he poses the question “Where do stories come from?”. He believes that the stories are already there, we just have to be able to see them for what they are. Which, as soon as you start looking around, you realise there is a truth to this as he mentions later on that after you have the idea “then the work begins”. What follows is a collection of 17 stories that have nothing in common except a passion for storytelling. Some of these stories are fantasy-based, some are science-fiction, and some are like film scripts. The stories are set in the past, in the future, on other worlds, and even within an internet chat room.

So there is a broad selection which should have something to please everyone. In this instance I do not see this as a bad thing; some collections are better read as single episodes rather than with an overriding theme. In this way it could be hard to recommend who should read this, obviously fans of Tad Williams will enjoy this, but then anyone with a sense of humour, a love of the unknown and anyone that enjoys a good tale should benefit from these stories.

I am not going to comment on all 17 stories; instead I am going to mention 4 of my favourite stories from the collection. Whilst reviewing the collection I have rated each short story out of 10 and found that for my personal taste these were the ones I rated highest, it was a close call for quite a few as the stories were all of a consistent standard.

For fans of the Otherland series there is a story: The Boy Detective of Oz: An Otherland story. Although, if you haven’t read the series, you may want to skip it until you have had time to read that epic as I felt that there were definitely spoilers for the main series. If you have read them, this story follows Orlando Gardiner on his quest to find out who murdered Omby Amby in the world of Oz - could there anarchy in this now peaceful world?

And Ministers of Grace, which is the last story in this collection, is a dark story about belief, martyrdom and rationalism, set in the future where humanity has grown and expanded throughout the universe. Yet there are still some of the same issues that we deal with on Earth, about people’s choice to believe and whether this is a private or a public matter. The story shows two worlds at war over the right to believe, Covenant and Archimedes. Following one of Covenant’s soldiers on a journey to self discovery and whether free will is possible in their time.

Z is for..., some of these stories are a lot shorter than others which go to show how much you can cram into a story. In this story Harold wakes up to find himself in the middle of a party, he can’t remember how he got there or what happened to make him feel as bad as he finds himself, but he finds himself thinking of Zebras without knowing the context.

Black Sunshine is written as a film script and if you like horror films then this is the story you need. The set up starts in 1976 when some teenagers are enjoying the last days of their summer holidays, when something goes wrong for this group of friends. Then we jump to the present following Eric’s perspective as an adult still haunted by that night. From there we find out he has returned back to his home town years later to manage a property sale. We then follow him as he reconnects with his old friends and the true horror of that night is finally revealed.

So as mentioned before there are a lot of stories contained in this selection and as shown above very different in terms of subject as well as style. Hopefully if you choose to read this collection you will be able to find your own favourite stories, if you do I hope that you want to share the collection with other people as well.
Michelle Herbert, 8/10

The Very Best of Tad Williams
ISBN: 9781616961374
Published: May 2014

  • The Old Scale Game
  • The Storm Door
  • The Stranger’s Hands
  • Child of an AncientCity
  • The Boy Detective of Oz: An Otherland Story
  • Three Duets for Virgin and Nosehorn
  • Diary of a Dragon
  • Not with a Whimper, Either
  • Some Thoughts Re: Dark Destroyer
  • Z is for...
  • Monsieur Vergalant’s Canard
  • The Stuff that Dreams are Made Of
  • Fish Between Friends
  • Every Fuzzy Beast of the Earth, Every Pink Fowl of the Air
  • A Stark and Wormy Knight
  • Black Sunshine
  • And Ministers of Grace

This The Very Best of Tad Williams book review was written by and Michelle Herbert

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