Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Magic, art & science in the city: Passing Strange

41jzvod73kl-_sy346_And then something happens that disrupts all your plans and your timetables, and it0s OK like that.
In this case, the something was a quick message from my friend Marina, that suggested I check out a book called Passing Strange, by author Ellen Klages.
The book, Marina said, came with the recommendation of Caitlin R. Kiernan.

If the recommendation and the gorgeous cover weren’t enough, I then checked the blurb on Amazon…

San Francisco in 1940 is a haven for the unconventional. Tourists flock to the cities within the city: the Magic City of the World’s Fair on an island created of artifice and illusion; the forbidden city of Chinatown, a separate, alien world of exotic food and nightclubs that offer “authentic” experiences, straight from the pages of the pulps; and the twilight world of forbidden love, where outcasts from conventional society can meet.

Six women find their lives as tangled with each other’s as they are with the city they call home. They discover love and danger on the borders where magic, science, and art intersect.

Inspired by the pulps, film noir, and screwball comedy, Passing Strange is a story as unusual and complex as San Francisco itself from World Fantasy Award winning author Ellen Klages.

Yes, inspired by the pulps, film noir, and screwball comedy.
Could I not invest two bucks and a half in this book?

And a great investment it was, just as it was a good idea spending a few hours in these two nights to read the book and enjoy its mix of class, elegance and ideas.
Part of the (excellent) series of Tor.com novellas, Klages’ book is a historical fantasy1 set in 1940, and touches on a number of subjects, from topology to weird menace pulps, while tracing the lives of six characters in the shadow of the incoming war and in a society i n which they have a hard time fitting.
Elegantly written, with great dialogue and great characterization, Passing Strange reads like a breeze, and is hopefully a sign that 2017 will be an excellent year for fiction, if nothing else.
Highly recommended.


  1. remind me to do a post about why lots of current fantasy fans wouldn’t recognize Klages’ story as a fantasy, and why this is an absolute tragedy.