It's easy to say that "The Gardener" is simply the story of how a self-important bureaucrat gets his comeuppance when he displeases an otherworldly arboreal protector, but it's more than that. St. Clair's power of description creates an almost clautophobic atmosphere and by the story's end, the reader is gasping for air. Few of the stories in this book end happily; the protagonists don't seem to deserve happy endings, or that's just the way it goes in an indifferent galaxy beyond their comprehension. St. Clair's best known story is probably "An Egg a Month From All Over" which chronicles a rather sordid man's hobby of hatching exotic eggs and what happens when his latest acquistion responds to his darkest desires. Do we really want to know what we secretly yearn for? St. Clair forces us to explore this thought in a science fictional context. In "Hathor's Pets," she takes the frequent science fiction theme of humans kept as pets by aliens of higher intelligence; however St. Clair sidesteps the common ending of these humans outwitting their seemingly superior "masters," and give us an a chillingly logical ending that will stay with you for days.
St. Clair's power as a writer doesn't come from providing an unexpected twist to her stories. No, that would be too easy. Her power comes from providing the logical finish to what she started, even though that might be even harder to accept and handle. St. Clair is truly a hard writer to define. She used fanciful setting to make us take a hard, unflinching look at the darkest corners of our souls.
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I rather wish I could give this book 4&1/2 stars; the only reason I am not giving it five is so that I have room in my judging should an even better, wittier, more deadpan and more delicious-sounding cookbook on anthropophagy come along. However, I rather doubt one will, and if one does not I will be well satisfied.
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