My introduction to Jeffrey Thomas came in the form of Red Cells when it was released by DarkFuse in early 2014. It was there that I first read about the city of Punktown (originally called Paxton) which is on a planet called Oasis. I immediately fell in love with the writing style and originality of the world that Thomas created. In the book Ghosts of Punktown, there are nine excellent stories (there's a tenth story exclusive to the hardcover!) that revolve around metaphorical ghosts. Before reading the book, if someone had told me that this book was written around metaphorical ghosts, I would have raised an eyebrow at them and wondered how that would work. But it did work; it worked *extremely* well.
Often I skip over introductions because they normally contain something that doesn't interest me. However, I recommend reading this introduction because Thomas takes you on a tour through various restaurants set in Punktown, what they offer and their specialties. He sets it up in such a way that I found myself drawn in and believing that these were real restaurants. I especially enjoyed the section on Pho Paxton, a Vietnamese restaurant, since I used to live with some Vietnamese people and recognize (and miss!) some of the food and drinks that are mentioned.
In His Sights - 5 stars!
Mutant shapeshifter Jeremy Stake is returning from serving in The Blue War. His ability to change his likeness to resemble the enemy's came in handy for him during the war but now there's one problem - he can't seem to change it back. To make matters worse for Stake, someone mistakes him for a terrorist or a spy because he still looks like the enemy and is determined to eliminate him.
Relics - 4 stars
Growing up, young Cynthia (Cynth as she prefers) had an artificially intelligent robot/program in her building that looked after her and took care of her that she called Mr. Moon. Her family moves away for a while and but when she comes back to Punktown, she lands a job at an auction house adjacent to the building that she grew up in. When something forces her to return to the apartment that she grew up in, she wonders how far Mr. Moon would go in order to protect her...
A Semblance of Life - 5 stars!
LeBlanc Jones, a military clone, works the night shift at a museum as a security guard with his partner Miter. Things are normally quiet until one night, Miter catches glimpses of an intruder. The external security alarms weren't tripped so that can only mean that the two guards are locked inside with the intruder; an intruder that is trying to kill them.
Bitter Brains - 5 stars!
If you've ever read anything by Thomas, then you'll know he is capable of coming up with some truly unique stuff which he proves in this short story. It's about the celebration of a spring festival to celebrate new life and part of the festival involves a tradition that the last person to arrive must follow. That's all I can say without spoiling it (and your appetite)!
Disfigured - 4 stars
Like many people, May Azul isn't happy with a part of her body because she feels that she doesn't stand out. In an attempt to change this, she visits Roy, who isn't a doctor so much as an artist that does plastic surgery. Roy is capable of many things - implanting glass balls in the head that change colors with moods or something more drastic such as removing an arm and attaching a tentacle complete with a mouth and tongue at the end. But May wants to be unique and stand out so she directs Roy to unleash his creativity on her.
Imp - 5 stars!
We've all run into those annoying ads on a computer before. However, in Punktown, they can take the form of an apparition that circles around your wrist or appears in your home for a while. Lawr can usually deal with these fairly easily until he visits a shady website and the apparition of a young girl shows up in his home. As time goes on, he becomes convinced that she's been abused and does everything he can to save her if it isn't too late.
The Room - 5 stars!
Quick Billy is a man who can get you whatever you need. He was doing just that when he meets, and subsequently falls in love, with Candy. Billy keeps getting Candy various items that she requests until he returns one day to find her apartment is missing like it was disintegrated. A few months later, he wakes up in the middle of the night to find a glowing green doorway in his room. If that isn't enough of a surprise, what's inside of that doorway shocks him.
Into My Arms - 4 stars
Although illegal, it is possible to clone a person's memories if you have the right equipment in Punktown. It is with this is mind that Swift plans to use nanomites to store his friend Talane's memories after her suicide. But can someone else handle the pain that drove Talane to commit suicide?
Life Work - 5 stars!
A female android named Hanako. An old lady named Sabina that tends to her plants. A retired gunman for the mob named Huck. A gang of boys in the local park. Each living their lives until their paths cross in a twisted sort of fate. I won't go into the plot as I'd give it away but this was one of my favorite stories!
Another Ghost - hardcover exclusive story. I will amend this review after I get my copy and read it!