From Locus magazine:
Magazines don’t often come my way as a reviewer, so anthology The Best of Talebones arrived without introduction (literally, since my advance copy lacks its intro by editor Patrick Swenson). Suspended last year after 39 issues, with plans to return in 2011 as an annual, Talebones came from a small press – Swenson’s own Fairwood – that managed to garner work by pros and writers on their way toward becoming names, along with some worthy unknowns. This Best Of includes stories by Jack Cady, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Jay Lake, Patricia Russo, and Ray Vukcevich, to name but a few. Though the tone ranges from grisly horror to wry humor, surrealist SF to rampantly pulpish fantasy, these could almost be the varied productions of a single authorial mind, given decades with the freedom to move wherever it wanted, plus the talent to put those wanderings to good use. Less fancifully, they’re evidence of an editor who knows just what he wants.– detective fiction as well as SF and the fantastic – and writers from Poe and Kipling to Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard and beyond. Some offer wry, satiric, outright loony perspectives, others a substantial lyricism that’s closer to Ray Bradbury. If you can’t stand lyrical prose, this isn’t the book for you, but that doesn’t mean it’s nice.
Short stories and even shorter works, along with the rare novelette (no poems), they create their own moods and worlds, in a kind of dialogue with Weird Tales and assorted pulps
Opener James Van Pelt’s ‘‘The Yard God’’ mixes beauty with the unsettling, as its retarded 22-year-old heroine suffers the depredations of a lusty jerk but never loses her contact with the little local biosphere which (she discovers) she can put to her own uses, not all of them innocent. The more absurdly SFnal, artificial, innocent being of Patrick O’Leary’s ‘‘23 Skidoo’’ leaves behind a hint of longing under the laughs, and Sandra McDonald’s ‘‘Bluebeard by the Sea’’ takes a deeper look into the half-formed desires of a weathered carnival building shaped like an oversize, oddly costumed man. Real children also show up in many tales: as potential victims, sources of really odd powers, sometimes both.
In ‘‘Sugar ’n’ Spice’’, Devon Monk recasts the tropes of PI fiction in the stuff of ‘‘Mother Goose’’ rhymes, with deliciously funny results. Other humor includes the wandering bodily parts of Anne Harris’ ‘‘Still Life With Boobs’’ and the deliberately overwrought fantastical exotica of ‘‘Zothique Mi Amor’’ by Mark Rich. In a few works, the language may get a bit too elaborate when no joke is intended, but most of these writers build their worlds with very few misplaced words – up to and including the book’s last tale, Ken Scholes’ peculiarly moving combination of Pooh with spacefare in ‘‘Edward Bear and the Very Long Walk’’.