The Empire of Ice Cream by Jeffrey Ford
|Jeffrey Ford is the master fantasist that no one seems to have heard of. Those few dialed in know him, sure, but I don't see The Girl In The Glass being read on the train. I don't see The Physiognomy on high school summer reading lists. Despite critical acclaim and notable awards, Ford has yet to attain his rightful status among the masses.|
The Empire of Ice Cream will not be the book to change this sad truth, but it certainly ought to be.
A hodge-podge collection of Ford's recent fantasy, The Empire of Ice Cream is Ford's second collection from Golden Gryphon. The first, The Fantasy Writer's Assistant, was the World Fantasy Award winning collection in 2003. It was also one of the five finest short story collections I have ever read. It seemed impossible to me, despite my appreciation for all things Ford, that a second collection coming so soon on the tail of the previous could even approach the same sort of quality, depth, and brilliance.
Jeffrey Ford proved me sorely wrong. The Empire of Ice Cream is even better.
The lead story recieved the Nebula Award for best novellette in 2003. A Night in the Tropics is incredibly haunting. Boatman's Holiday is a vividly rendered mess of insanity. And Coffins In The River has kept me awake the past two nights.
The cover looks kinda wacky, doesn't it? Like The Fantasy Writer's Assistant, it's John Picacio, and if you've read more than one review on this site, you know how much I appreciate John Picacio.
But this particular cover, I did not like. It's kind of weird, no? Weird and bright and not, I assumed, Picacio's best work. It didn't much speak to me.
Then I read the book.
Now it's among my favorites of all time. This guy is ridiculous. He's the speculative fiction Picasso, and he's alive in our very own times, people. Take note.
But I'm digressing. The book, not the cover, is what I should be talking up. It's good. It's better than good. It's Cordwainer Smith, Harlan Ellison, George R.R. Martin, Lucius Shepard short story good. This collection is a gem. I need some time and distance for perspective, but this may be my favorite collection of all time.
In an era of great short story writers -- Link and Lanagan, Chiang and Hill -- Jeffrey Ford stands above and beyond the rest; a true master of his craft, and this may be his opus.
The first edition is limited to 3000 copies. Pick it up before it's sold out. When you get it, put down whatever else it is you're reading and delve into the magic. This is what fantasy is all about.