For all his everyman protagonists, one of the book’s centerpieces showcases Shiner at another extreme, inhabiting historical figures he knows only through research, and weaving an alternate history where the actual and fanciful are indistinguishable. “The Death of Ché Guevara,” a 2010 Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award Finalist, is told as an expansive interview with Haydée Tamara Bunke Bider, aka Tania, Ché’s partner in revolution. Her account of U.S. adventurism in Argentina, Eugene McCarthy as president, and an all-too-credible scenario for martial law in the United States is told with such conviction and passion, we want to believe, regardless of our political sympathies.
And that may be Shiner’s greatest talent, the ability — like all the masters of the short fiction form — to create characters we can care about, can even relate to, in brief tales and in the most incredible circumstances. Regardless of allegory or fantasy, what makes his Collected Stories so memorable is the humanity at their heart.
This is a substantial collection in every sense, one that places Lewis Shiner among the finest of today’s short story practitioners.