Sympathy for the Devil by Tim Pratt

The Devil. Satan. Lucifer. His Satanic Majesty. Is it just me or is the devil one of the most interesting characters in history available to write a short story about? So much possibility and yet, in many of the stories in “Sympathy for the Devil”, he falls so short of the mark. What should have been a 5 star read falls to a mere 3.

Part of great anthologizing requires the writer/editor to spend a considerable amount of time and effort reading and culling. Just because a famed writer puts the pen to paper does not mean that every word that falls to the page is golden. Good anthology editors know this and are willing to make cuts where the stories aren’t that good.

Not to say that the selections aren’t interesting. They range from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Salem, Massachusetts to Stephen King’s Maine. Mark Twain next to Neil Gaiman and Michael Chabon. And of course, Dante. Many authors, some shorts worthy of 5 stars in and of themselves, but the overall effect is a 3 for me.

The 3 is due to the unevenness in story quality and an anthology that runs about 125 pages too long. A long anthology is only as good as the quality within it and there lies the trap for the editor. The stories have to hold the readers’ interest and at about page 333 I was getting turned off on the whole subject matter and just wanted the book to end.

I have to admit to a fault here as a reader: I am insistent on finishing every book I start. If you are a reader who can skip or skim the weaker stories, you might find this to be a 4 star read. I leave it to you, fellow reader, to make that decision. Just know going in that the devil is in the details.

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