In my experience, Magic Realism and Surrealism are often better in concept than in execution. Most of the attempts I’ve seen sacrifice the grounded characterization of relatable characters in an effort to be off-key and weird, winding up with stories that are intellectually intriguing but emotionally flat. Such is not the case with A World in Edgewise by Jack Preston King.
For me, King’s best talents lie precisely in characterization and, particularly, in dialogue (a critical component of characterization). In that way (and some others), he reminds me of Philip K. Dick. Ol’ PKD could spin a bizarre tale and yet never lose his grasp on the simple humanity at the core of it all.
Given the nature of the book, I can’t help but think King chose the number thirteen intentionally. Bad luck or magick or some kind of esoteric signal to the Universal Intent? I’m not sure, but given what I’ve seen of the rest of his thinking, I suspect it’s got some sort of intended significance to it. He’s a strange wizard, far as I can tell.
One of the stories I appreciate most is titled “The Last Dinosaur.” It’s about a future where writers use artificial intelligence to write books. The hero of the tale is one of the obsolete old farts who still writes books using only his own mind.
He meets a young fan. The two begin talking literature. There are sexual and romantic undertones throughout the exchange, convincing enough to make the story entirely compelling.
The idea of AI-created books is interesting, but it was the emotional exchange between the aging writer and his young fan that kept me reading — start-to-end twice in a row, in fact.
I don’t know if I’d say it was my favorite story in the collection, but I think it best encapsulates what I appreciated most from the book. The weirdness (and there is plenty of weirdness) never overshadows the humanity.
It’s just plain good writing. The consistently fascinating ideas that the stories play with are great, too, but the meat and potatoes are always solid…solid and tasty, like meat and potatoes should be.