Tad Williams is an acknowledged master of the multi-volume epic. Through such popular series as Memory, Sorrow and Thorn and Otherland, he has acquired a huge and devoted body of readers who eagerly await each new publication. A Stark and Wormy Knight offers those readers something both special and surprising: a virtuoso demonstration of Williams’s mastery of a variety of shorter forms.
The range of tone, theme, style, and content reflected in this generous volume is nothing short of amazing. The title story is a tale within a tale of dragons and knights and is notable for its wit and verbal inventiveness. “The Storm Door” uses The Tibetan Book of the Dead to forge a singular new approach to the traditional zombie story. “The Terrible Conflagration at the Quiller’s Mint” offers a brief, independent glimpse into the background of Williams’s Shadowmarch series. “Ants” provides an ironic account of what can happen when a marriage goes irrevocably wrong.
Two of the longer entries show Williams working, with great facility, within the fictional creations of other writers. “The Thursday Men” is a hugely entertaining foray into the world of Mike Mignolla’s Hellboy comics. The wonderfully titled “The Lamentably Comical Tragedy (or the Laughably Tragic Comedy) of Lixal Laqavee” is both a first-rate fantasy and a deeply felt homage to Jack Vance’s immortal Dying Earth. Two other pieces offer rare and hard-to-find glimpses into other facets of Williams’s talent. “Bad Guy Factory” is the script for a proposed series of DC Comics that never came to fruition. “Black Sunshine” is the immensely readable screenplay for a movie that remains, at least for the moment, unproduced. One can only hope.
These and other stories and novellas comprise a stellar collection that really does contain something for everyone. For longtime Williams readers, and for anyone with a taste for literate imaginative fiction, A Stark and Wormy Knight is a welcome — and indispensable — volume.
Tad Williams (US, born 1957) has held more jobs than any sane person should admit to – singing in a band, selling shoes, managing a financial institution, throwing newspapers, and designing military manuals, to name just a few. He also hosted a syndicated radio show for ten years, worked in theater and television production, taught both grade-school and college classes, and worked in multimedia for a major computer firm. He is cofounder of an interactive television company, and is currently writing comic books and film and television scripts as well. Tad and his family live in London and the San Francisco Bay Area.