Fantastic Reviews - Short Story Collection Book Review
Miracle book cover

Miracle and Other Christmas Stories by Connie Willis

Bantam Spectra books - copyright 1999
328 pages

Book read in January 2000

Rating: 8/10  (Highly Recommended)

Review by Aaron Hughes

       How often do you see a theme anthology, with all the stories by the same author?  This unusual collection came about because for much of the 90's Connie Willis has written a Christmas story for the December issue of Asimov's Science Fiction magazine.  She has now built up enough material for an entire collection of yuletide tales.  This book includes eight Christmas stories, five of which originally appeared in Asimov's.  It also contains Willis's choices for the best Christmas stories and movies of all time.

       I suspect a collection of stories on a single topic by nearly any other writer would quickly become tedious, even if the individual stories were good.  Yet with Willis, the whole becomes even greater than the sum of its parts.  While there's no single masterpiece here (in contrast, Willis's prior collection, Impossible Things, contains two of my all-time favorite stories, "Chance" and "Even the Queen"), Willis's skills at characterization and dialogue and her ability to bring home a strong message through seemingly light-hearted tales have never been more in evidence.

       I thought six of the stories in this collection were very good, ranging from funny: "Miracle" (a woman is pestered by a Christmas spirit much less helpful than one would expect) and "Newsletter"  (everyone's remarkable good Christmas cheer is apparently attributable to alien invaders);  to satirical: "In Coppelius's Toyshop" (a self-absorbed heel gets lost in a FAO Schwartz-style toy store);  to wistful: "Adaptation" (a divorced father spends a bittersweet Christmas with characters from Dickens's "A Christmas Carol") and "Epiphany" (a minister is led far from home by a vision);  to even a fun whodunit: "Cat's Paw" (an enjoyably pompous sleuth attempts to solve a murder - this is only a Christmas story in that the murder occurs on Christmas Eve).  Even the other two stories, "Inn" (on Christmas Eve, a member of the church choir helps two travelers a very long way from home) and "The Pony" (everyone seems to be getting just what they want for Christmas), while not as strong, showed enough touches of Willis's flair to impress.

       Unless you're a Scrooge, this is a book you'll want to return to over many a Christmas yet to come.
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Copyright 2000 Aaron Hughes

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Our book club's web pages for Connie Willis books (includes Willis bibliography):
To Say Nothing of the Dog

Links to other reviews:
The SF Site Featured Review: Miracle and Other Christmas Stories - Connie Willis, Miracle and Other Christmas Stories

For information on more science fiction and fantasy books:
Denver Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club

This page was last updated - 27 December 2010