Sympathy for the Devil

by Various Authors, Tim Pratt (Ed.)

“I don’t think there was a nine-year-old that ever lived who would have been able to convince his father he’d seen the Devil come walking out of the woods in a black suit.” -Stephen King

In terms of average rating, anthologies have a significant challenge pulling off a high score compared to single author collections. Anthologies have so many voices from so many authors the sheer breadth and variation ensures a reader will like some material, dislike other, and everyone will be able to find something that works for them.

This is one of the highest rated anthologies you’re likely to find based on an average rating. The stories range mostly from fair to pure “Oh My God Go Read Right Now” genius.

Opening with one of the great devil tales, “The Price” by Neil Gaiman immediately hooks you as a man finds a stray cat at his rural home, begins to care for the animal, and daily sees the cat’s injuries mount due to skirmishes with The Devil each and every night. The anthology ends 35 stories later with Dante himself. Nearly everything in between has serious merit.

Each story deals with some permutation of Lucifer. Two of the best Gaiman tales are here. The book contains Stephen King, Michael Chabon, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, Charles Stross, Charles de Lint, Jonathan Carroll, Robert Bloch and Dante, to name a few (but not all) the highlights. It is NOT just the highlights that are of note, either. Natalie Babbitt, David Ackert and Benjamin Rosenbaum deliver show stopping tales.

There are grand slams, home-runs and triples all over the place:

1 star stories (bad) – 1
2 star stories (fair to good) – 4
3 star stories (good to really good) – 14
4 star stories (excellent) – 12
5 star stories (drop everything, go read) – 5

A couple more quotes to chew on:

“As always, the Devil tried to be reasonable.” -Scott Bradfield

“When I fell from heaven, I knew I was in for a poorer class of associate. . .” –John Kessel

“I am everything bad about you and if you want to look that square in the face then go ahead. But I warn you, looking your own evil in the eye is as bad as looking at Medusa. It will wreck you, turn part of you into stone.” –Jonathan Carroll

A who’s who gathering of writers exploring possibly the single most interesting character ever put to paper–what could possibly go wrong?

4 stars

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