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Welcome To Bordertown by Black and Kushner

1/07/2011. Contributed by J.L. Jamieson

Buy Welcome To Bordertown edited in the USA - or Buy Welcome To Bordertown edited in the UK

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Welcome To Bordertown edited by Holly Black and Ellen Kushner. pub: Random House Books For Young Readers. 544 page hardback. Price: GBP 12.35 (UK), $19.99 (US) ISBN: 978-0-37586705-7.

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In 1986, Terri Windling created an unforgettable shared world called Bordertown. A host of other classic fantasy writers collaborated with her to create one of the most memorable and influential group of Young Adult urban fantasy books and short stories. It combined the yearning of the young to be somewhere else with a sense of rollicking adventure that only a world of diverse characters living in an inner-city runaway chaos could provide. A city on the border of the outside world and the realm of faerie, where neither technology nor magic worked predictably. It balanced that sense of adventure with strong themes of personal triumph, overcoming racial prejudice and finding out who you were and could be. Not much had been heard from Bordertown in quite a long time, as the last few releases were in the mid to late-nineties.

Now, the road to Bordertown has been re-opened.

‘Welcome To Bordertown’ collects in one volume many of the original contributors, along with several writers today, who found the allure of B-Town irresistible: Charles de Lint, Emma Bull, Will Shetterly, Terri Windling, Ellen Kushner, Neil Gaiman, Cory Doctorow, Holly Black, Cassandra Clare and Catherynne Valente, just to name a few. The collection picks up where the books and collections left off, plus thirteen days. The outside world has waited for thirteen years to run away to Bordertown again, but to the denizens of the Border, only thirteen days have passed.

The result is an interesting infusion of the modern world into the bohemian sensibility of the Border. Instead of Bordertown's fusion of music and magic providing the main fascination to the runaways from the World, in this collection the denizens of the Border are just as fascinated with the new gadget innovations of the World. The new technology the 'noobs' from the world bring in, as well as their changed cultural norms and history, fascinate the street kids, halfies, and Trueblood Elves alike. This update to the series takes the modern world and nudges it into the same old Bordertown you read and loved back then. The same classic characters still roam the streets and stages. Wolfboy and Sparks still run Elsewhere. Farrel Din still gives a free beer to new arrivals at The Dancing Ferret. New characters have blended in with the population and continue to keep B-Town alive and kicking.

This collection is a delight and surprise at every turn. It includes not only short stories, but poems and a graphic story. Stand out poems by Jane Yolen, Amal El-Mohtar, Steven Brust, Delia Sherman, Patricia A McKillip and Neil Gaiman add dimension to the Bordertown aesthetic. What could be more perfect to a town that gives a home to misfit poets, musicians and artists? Each poem adds a unique perspective and dimension and the addition of the graphic story in the middle of the book was perfect. The book's varied format well represents the kind of variety seen in the rich world of characters and places that the Bordertown contributors have built over the years.

Some of the pieces that provided the greatest diversions and pleasures were the ones that so uniquely accounted for the new technological world finding its way to the Border. Cory Doctorow's 'Shannon's Law' provided a very neat entry of technology and Internet to the Border, seamlessly integrating modern technological ideas with the mystical, unpredictable and esoteric way that these things tend to function there. Catherynne Valente keeps the momentum of the collection going, with the gritty runaway tale of 'Voice Like A Hole'. Will Shetterly brings back some beloved characters in 'The Sages Of Elsewhere', reminding us of everything we've loved about the books. Charles de Lint's tale of a Native American boy whose grief elicits help from an unexpected source is a great place to end the collection on, leaving us filled with hope and wonder and wanting more.

The entire book is everything I'd hoped it would be. Rather than outline everything I found enjoyable, I'll be brief. I can say with certainty that it won't disappoint long-time fans of the books. I also think it will very nicely provide that same delight to readers new to Bordertown, an escape from reality where runaways can still find magic, music and art.

J.L. Jamieson

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