Whether set in terrestrial oceans or on far-off space stations, Cat Rambo’s masterfully told stories explore themes of gender, despair, tragedy, and the triumph of both human and non-human alike. Cats talk, fur wraps itself around you, aliens overstay their welcome, and superheroes deal with everyday problems. Rambo has been published in Asimov’s, Weird Tales, and Tor.com among many others. She was an editor for Fantasy Magazine, has written numerous nonfiction articles and interviews, and has volunteered time with Broad Universe and Clarion West. She has been shortlisted for the Endeavour Award, the Million Writers Award, the Locus Awards, and most recently a World Fantasy Award.
Most reviews of Cat Rambo’s beautiful anthology have spent a lot of time examining the unique and compelling quality of the layout and physicality of the book. True, it is necessary to note the down right “cool” format of the collection: the double-sided covers that, with a flip of the book, brings the reader to the other collection. There are echoes of classic Sci-Fi novels with visionary depictions of red planets and solitary spaceships careening out into universes unknown. Rambo’s Near + Far certainly looks the part of great Sci-Fi of old and the appearance is something I’ve noticed many reviewers focusing on.
This, while understandable, detracts from the succulent stories nestled between those two bewitching covers.
I’ve been a devotee of Rambo’s work for many years. She is an accomplished storyteller with more than 100 published short stories under her belt and a gifted editor and instructor. I was not, therefore, the least bit surprised when I picked up my copy of Near + Far and did not set it down for four straight hours.
The title of the anthology is quite literal and very clever in its hints of what the reader can expect. In Near we visit times and settings, (mainly Earth), that modern readers will find familiar. In Far we journey to worlds unknown and undiscovered.
The thematic elements in these stories are married beautifully with Rambo’s distinct, visceral writing that subtly courts the reader in preparation for the gut punch of raw emotion. These stories are speculative fiction at its best, where the fantastical is mirrored in the reality of human (and non-human) life. There are quirky, complex stories that echo the dreams of little girls everywhere, yours truly included, (“Ms. Liberty Gets a Haircut”), the thread of loneliness and how isolation impacts everyone in individual ways, (“Therapy Buddha”), the function of dysfunction, (“Vocobox”) and the sting of betrayal, (“Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain”).
Cat Rambo never disappoints. Her strongest talent is in the “says the Spider to the Fly” way she writes. She lures readers in and we think, perhaps, we know where she’s going, what path Rambo will set us on and while we’re considering this, thinking we know exactly where we’re headed, Rambo slips the rug from beneath us and makes us grateful for the tumble.
If you love great fiction (regardless of genre) then pick up Rambo’s Near + Far. I cannot apologize for converting you to the Rambo Cult. Come join us. We have chocolate.