Hidden Turnings Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2018-01-10 
Review Score: 5 out of 5 star From 0 user ratings

" Stories I liked:"True Believer""Ceres Passing""The Walled Garden""The Master""The Sky Sea"Stories that were okay:"The Vision""Urgeya's Choice""Turntables of the Night"Stories that fit into this weird conflicting area between "liked" and "okay":"Dogfaerie""Fifty-Fafty"Stories I didn't like:"A Bird That Whistles""Kalifriki of the Thread" " said.

" This collection made a big impact on me when I read it when I was around 12 or 13.Douglas Hill's True Believer freaked me out because I did have a strong imagination and Lisa Tuttle's The Walled Garden blew my mind and Geraldine Harris's Urgeya's Choice really made me think and stayed in my memory a long time. " said.

" “True Believer” by Douglas Hill ★★★☆☆“Ceres Passing” by Tanith Lee ★★★★☆“Fifty-Fafty” by Robert Westall ★★★☆☆“Dogfaerie” by Garry Killworth ★★☆☆☆“The Walled Garden” by Lisa Tuttle ★★★☆☆“The Master” by Diana Wynne Jones ★★★★☆“The Vision” by Mary Rayner ★★☆☆☆“Urgeya’s Choice” by Geraldine Harris ★★☆☆☆“The Sea Sky” by Helen Cresswell ★★★☆☆“A Bird That Whistles” by Emma Bull ★★★☆☆“Kalifriki of the Thread” by Roger Zelazny ★★★★☆“Turntables of the Night” by Terry Pratchet ★★★☆☆ " said.

"This was a mixed anthology. There are some very good stories in here. Emma Bull's "A Bird That Whistles" is the exact sort of mix of music and faerie that I'm very into at the moment, and thus it's probably my favorite. Robert Zelazny's story was also an excellent multidimensional adventure that felt like a science fantasy sword and sorcery tale. Terry Pratchett's story was amusing and I really liked how the narrator's voice. The Sky Sea was short but fun. The Walled Garden and True Believer were both clever stories with thought provoking endings. The Vision was fun, and The Sky Sea showed just a hint of a larger world that would be a lot of fun to explore more of. The other stories were rather disappointing, however. Fifty-Fafty really doesn't feel like it fit here and just wasn't good. Ceres Passing was clever but I found the details of the setting too distracting. Dogfaerie was okay but nothing particularly special. The Diann Wynne Jones story was unfortunately confusing and strange, which especially disappointed me. These lackluster stories were packed into the first half of the anthology, which was almost enough to make me want to stop reading. Fortunately, I ended up continuing and was rewarded with a much better second half. Still, this book could have been much improved by having a different order of stories, and I'm annoyed enough about the disappointing ones to have overall only somewhat enjoyed the collection." said.

" Another interesting collection of authors.Some of the stories were amazing for me, some of the authors tales didn't appeal to my tastes. Unfortunately Pratchett's story wasn't the best, but it did feature Death in rhinestones and bell bottoms, so that was a bit of a chuckle.A few more authors have been added to the to-read list. :) " said.

"Diana Wynne Jones is my hero. And, as such, anything pertaining to her is avidly grabbed and devoured.
Sadly, there a few contributions that didn't quite gel - but isn't that the nature of a short story collection?

Robert Westall. Man. There's a writer. 'Fifty-Fafty': an odd little gem that has to be the story that sticks the most to me. Not for plot content as such, but a beautifully written piece placed perfectly in space and time. With a sadly touching ending.

I had already come across the Wynne Jones story in another collection so was a little disappointed - always eager to discover something new by her.
One very positive thing about this collection, being very fussy about fantasy writing,is that I know what authors of I am NOT going to be reading in the future...

I give it three stars: 1 for Ms. Jones because I love her. 1 for Robert Westall because his writing always gives me small bits of happiness that cling. And the third for the other decent stories.
" said.

"This collection is aimed at teen/young adult readers and some of the writers featured are best known for books for that age group or younger (Helen Cresswell, for example). I liked some of the stories, such as The Sky Sea (Cresswell), Ceres Passing, by Tanith Lee, Urgeya's Choice, by Geraldine Harris, but others I found a bit 'obvious' (as in guessed almost immediately the denoument of The Vision, by Mary Rayner, or found just a bit of a non starter such as Roger Zelazny's and Terry Pratchett's contributions (and I love some of Zelazny's books; haven't really read Pratchett). The biggest disappointment was Diana Wynne Jones' own story, as I am a big fan of her novels, but this story was just weird for the sake of it and (view spoiler)" said.

"When, in the late eighties, Diana Wynne Jones was asked to choose authors for a short story collection the only stipulation was for twelve tales “to do with the imagination”. When the submissions came in the main theme they all shared was “hidden turnings of the mind” where the reader is led into “remarkable new places”, an aspect which easily suggested a title for the collection. The sad fact is that, of the twelve authors, half have since gone round their own hidden turnings: Robert Westall (1993), Roger Zelazny (1995), Helen Cresswell (2005), Douglas Hill (2007), Diana Wynne Jones herself (2011) and, most recently, Terry Pratchett (2015). How lovely though to have such an assemblage of writers, all authors whom the editor tells us she loved to read herself: “the people who keep me on the edge of my seat, or awake all night, or gently chuckling — or all these things — people who I think write really well.” The collection, then, sounds very promising.

Short story collections, however, can be mixed blessings. There are the ones where the author specifically writes a group of related tales — perhaps involving characters or places common to several — and these can be quite successful. There are the ones which bundle up a handful of unrelated pieces penned by one author for different publications and different audiences, and the overall effect can be very uneven. And there are the ones, such as this, where the selection and ordering of contributions from different writers is crucial to the success or failure of the collection as a whole. I think Hidden Turnings — despite very disparate authors — hangs together very well, with some really outstanding stories lodging in the mind.

My favourite has to be Robert Westall’s Fifty-fafty. This semi-autobiographical tale, set on Tyneside just before the Second World War, is captivating and not a little melancholic. Amongst the realistic depictions of life in the aftermath of the Great Depression, with the minutiae of daily rituals vividly described, is a kind of ghostly folktale featuring the motif of a unknown relative unwittingly murdered. The kernel of Westall’s tale is actually a play of near enough the same name, Fifty Fafty, by Charles Freeman, produced in North Shields in February 1882 and subtitled ‘the Tyneside Mystery’ (and later, in 1895, ‘The jaws of death’). Westall invests his short story with empathy for a young sensitive boy and with rage against a God who prowls Tyneside “like a man-eating tiger, driving good men to drink by killing their young wives with TB, and slaughtering innocent babes in their cradles…” Such an atmospheric tale to be included in this collection.

Many of the tales have a fairytale aspect to them, sometimes hinted at but at other times explicit. There are tales of dark woods: Douglas Hill’s True Believer which with its echoes of an unholy Sabbath and whiff of Gothick horror riffs on the motif of the sleeper who wakes to a nightmare scenario; and Diana Wynne Jones’ The Master which, despite its science (the protagonist is a vet) and SF trappings, is really her take on the Red Riding Hood story, but not as you’d imagine it.

Fairytale motifs also abound in Emma Bull’s The Bird That Whistles. Borrowing lines found in Dylan’s Corrina, Corrina (“I got a bird that whistles, I got a bird that sings”) and in other song variants, Bull’s account of teenager John Deacon’s meeting with the enigmatic folk musician Willy Silver is suffused with a love of traditional music and ancient songs, so it comes as no surprise then that the Child ballad of Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight which gets a passing mention proves to be a template of a sort for the narrative. Popular music also makes an appearance in Mary Rayner’s The Vision, a time travel story which links a young medieval monk with the 1987 Glastonbury Festival at Pilton in Somerset.

Another time travel tale is Lisa Tuttle’s The Walled Garden. No end of secret gardens approached by never-to-be-found-again portals abound in fairytale and fantasy, but perhaps rarely woven quite so cunningly into a plot as this, with quite the panache as this almost metafictional tale-within-a-tale and set in so unlikely a place as Houston, Texas. Continuing with the supernatural thread is Garry Kilworth’s Dogfaerie, a finely told atmospheric account of a kind of house spirit that cunningly includes elements of the Arabian Nights story of ‘The Genie in the Bottle’ — with a surprising twist.

Geraldine Harris is an Egyptologist so it’s not surprising that Urgeya’s Choice has a hint of Hellenistic Egypt about it. Twins on the cusp of adulthood are expected to learn from the goddess of fate what their life has in store for them: “Each one of you has a soul of flame, each must choose how much of yourself to feed to that flame…” Will they choose danger, risk and a short life and so light up the darkness? Or will they opt for safety and long life in which the flame will have no power to burn bright? This variant of the Greek adage Those whom the gods love die young is beautifully told, full of insights into young psyches. Meanwhile, Tanith Lee’s Ceres Passing is a variation on the classical myth of Proserpina or Persephone, and imagines what existence her mother Ceres might lead in her search for her lost daughter, told with quiet humour but also pathos.

The remaining three pieces are as great a contrast with each other as with the foregoing. Roger Zelazny’s Kalifriki of the Thread appears to be a standard swords-and-sorcery tale were it not for its equally mesmerising undertones of traditional themes. In particular these themes include the imaginative combination of Miranda and Prospero types from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the automaton Talos from Greek myth (his life literally hanging on a thread from a nail) and the universal plot of Overcoming the Monster. Then there’s Terry Pratchett’s Turntables of the Night, featuring a reappearance of Death — that wonderful character from Pratchett’s novel Mort which had been published a couple of years before — in the company of an enthusiastic if incompetent DJ, in which both wit and the inevitable ensue. Finally, Helen Cresswell’s The Sky Sea showcases ‘the slightly dotty’ Great Aunt Cass (with whom the young protagonist Daisy finds most affinity) and who avers that there is a sea beyond the sky; this tale reminded me most of Joan Aiken’s short stories where, once you accept the unusual as commonplace, anything that can happen does happen, and all with impeccable logic.

So there you have it: twelve labyrinthine tales, each with a twist at the end. Although loosely linked by fairytale motifs, or music, or time travel or death they all approach their themes in highly individual and accomplished fashion. As with waking dreams it’s sometimes difficult to tell where reality really begins and ends; best to surrender yourself to the moment.
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January 2018 New Book:

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