The three short stories in this collection share little in common other than being penned by Steven Erikson and set in Canada, Erikson's homeland. The themes and tones of the works vary dramatically.
"The Devil Delivered" is certainly the darkest story of the lot, but it's also the compilation's crowning achievement. Erikson imagines a future society devastated by political and corporate greed, environmental degradation, disease, and war. Earth is hardly habitable and "haunted" by ghosts. The story structure is a convoluted mix of instant messaging, historic and scientific logs, and standard narrative. Reminiscent of his work in the Malazan series, the reader is plunged into the proverbial deep-end and only gradually gets his bearings in the world Erikson has created. The reader's patience and perseverance are rewarded, however, with a powerful work of speculative fiction. Erikson's comments on mankind, nature, and artificial intelligence are poignant.
"Revolvo" is a satirical jab at a number of targets. Eschewing subtlety, Erikson weaves an outlandish tale. Art is withheld from the public, placed in a museum only accessible to the elite. This upper class decides which artists will be successful, and how successful, without any consideration of talent. A Neanderthal roams the town, stalking human prey. A meek and mild-mannered gentleman with a gastrointestinal ailment transforms into a monster and goes on a rampage of destruction. Celebrities physically inflate and shrink with their egos. Pigeons conspire to take down the powerful minister. An octopus sneaks around his owner's home. There's rapid-fire commentary on social and economic ills, anarchy, human depravity, and the media. It's a busy story that seems to have so much to say that I felt adrift in a sea of absurdity. Much of the symbolism may have escaped me. Absent any meaningful plot or characterization, this story succeeds or fails on its cleverness alone. It left me wanting more substance. See Erikson's "Crack'd Pot Trail" for a delightfully witty and more profound satire of the art world.
"Fishin' with Grandma Matchie" is a whimsical folk tale presented from the perspective of a 9-year old writing an essay about his summer vacation. Erikson playfully mixes and makes up words (e.g. "suddenized", wasps emerge "stungling", legs are "glongly") which, cute at first, loses its novelty. The child is playfully aware of his audience and writes with an honesty and innocence befitting his age. In the tradition of folk tales, natural phenomena are explained in far-fetched ways. Why are heron blue and eagles bald? Where did the Rocky Mountains and Tyndall Stone come from? How did Rat Portage Lake get its name? What carved the path of the Winnipeg River? The characters and events in the boy's essay are so ridiculous and fanciful that the teacher and principal naturally doubt the veracity of his story. This leads to a startling confrontation and a final admonition for the reader. Erikson deserves credit for honoring the tradition of the folk tale and the story is moderately clever and charming, but it's light entertainment at best.
All three stories were published previously in Great Britain in 2005 or 2008. Each is worth reading, but only "The Devil Delivered" is truly special.