A Yuletide Universe: Sixteen Fantastical Tales
Over the years, Santa Claus has appeared in numerous science fiction and fantasy tales; it seems that the jolly old man isn’t adverse to hanging out with beings besides elves!
In the spirit of the season, the year’s final book is A Yuletide Universe.
While all the stories chosen are classics, some are a bit too far off the beaten track. Harlan Ellison’s “Santa Claus vs S.P.I.D.E.R.” casts the saint as a pseudo James Bond fighting aliens who control peoples’ minds. It has nothing to do with Christmas besides the presence of Santa, and at 26 pages it feels rambling and unfocused.
Some of the most intriguing stories have a surreal element. The volume opens with Neil Gaiman’s one page “Nicholas Was…,” which succinctly paints Santa as a man cursed. Even more hair-raising is Donald E. Westlake’s “Nackles.” Set in an abusive marriage, the father scares his children into obedience by making up Nackles, a kind of anti-Santa whose story takes on a life of its own.
The power of belief provides the theme for such stories as Anne McCaffrey’s “A Proper Santa Claus,” with a little boy who can bring art to life … until he tries to pin down Kris Kringle. And “O Come Little Children…” is Chet Williamson’s haunting tale of a much more fundamental belief, one that lies at the heart of Christmas.
The volume’s most classic story is L. Frank Baum’s “A Kidnapped Santa Claus.” When Santa is abducted by Daemons, he finds out just how much joy he brings to children everywhere. Meanwhile, his helpers attempt to deliver the Christmas toys and are mostly successful.
Whether you’re young or old, big or small, Santa Claus remains an enduring symbol of happiness and giving in this entertaining book. May you all have a very happy holiday season!
This review appeared in the Davis Enterprise on December 18, 2003.
Page Count: 256
Publication Date: November 1, 2003
Acquired: Personal purchase