Emily Held's Reviews > The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and Other Stories

The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and Other Stories by John Kessel
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Apr 02, 08

Read in February, 2008

I was lucky enough to recently snag an ARC of John Kessel's The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and other tales, courtesy of Library Thing's Early Reviewer's program. The back cover copy promises witty intersections with classic literature like Pride and Prejudice, The Wizard of Oz, and A Good Man is Hard to Find.

Subversive literary mash-ups seem to be all the rage today, and Oz doubly so. The last few years have seen the release of a manga, Alan Moore's pornographic Lost Girls, the excellent science fiction Dorothy of Oz comic, and the lackluster SciFi channel's Tin Man. The title story (Baum as in L. Frank) is unfortunately rather middle of the road, as such things go. Dot, a liberated gal of the mid twentieth, takes our narrator on an underground ride to a strange dream space where wealth is theirs for the taking. It's rather unfortunate that "Baum Plan," like many of the other mash-ups, has a rather indecisive ending. Kessel has a knack for the entertaining, and the pages kept turning, whether I was reading about a time-travelling Orson Wells or Victor Frankenstein doing the dance of manners with the cast of Pride and Prejudice. I was particularly impressed and amused by the ultra-short "The Red Phone," which surpasses Nicholson Baker's Vox in humor and sexiness.


The high point of the collection by far is Kessel's linked shorts about life on a moon colony. The world-building is excellent enough to be nearly invisible, and his stories about men in a matriarchal society are compelling enough that I literally couldn't put it down once I started the cycle.
With this collection, Small Beer press further confirms its reputation for producing excellence in the science fiction short form. I'll eagerly look for more as Kessel as an author, and continue to seek out new releases from this charmingly otherworldly imprint.
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