Review of Mike Resnick's story "Alastair Baffle's Emporium of Wonders"

The short story "Alastair Baffle's Emporium of Wonders" by Mike Resnick (in the January 2008 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction magazine) deserves to be on every award and anthology short-list next year. Not only is the story amazingly well written, it'll stab you through the heart while leaving you both sad and optimistic about humanity and our desires. This is Resnick at his very best.

The story focuses on two octogenarians who spend their remaining days reminiscing about the Chicago magic store where they first met as kids. To say that the two men have had a mixed bag in life is an understatement--they've failed in most of their careers, their families passed away before them, and they now are in poor health and waiting for death in a less-than-prime nursing home. Then they set off in search of the magic store of their youth and . . . well, you'll just have to read the rest.

Unfortunately, the January 2008 Asimov's isn't yet available. I heard Resnick read the story to a small group of people at the recent Context convention in Columbus. I usually grow irritated by author readings, especially when the story isn't worth listening to. Not this time. I literally lost track of everything but the story during Resnick's reading and for days afterward found myself reflecting on the tale.

Resnick has written many great short stories in his career, not the least of which are collected in the award-winning collection Kirinyaga: A Fable of Utopia. But I believe this story might just top them all. When the January 2008 Asimov's becomes available, I'd suggest picking up a copy. Until then, feel free to check out the interview I held with Resnick at the 2006 Context.