Okay, this is going to be a slightly odd one. I love the setting. But I give the paperback 5 stars, and the Kindle version 4, or 4.5 at best.
I’ve read both the original paperback put out in the 90s, and now the Kindle version. And while the stories in both are good, if you want to see how to put a bunch of short stories together as a novel, you’re going to have to track down the old paperback version.
Mirabile started out as separate short stories all in the same setting in an SF magazine. As far as I can tell, the Kindle version simply collects those stories together. The older paperback version, on the other hand, edited said stories in three important ways. It added bits of a framing story around all the original short stories to tie them all together; bits that portray Mama Jason telling all of these stories to her friends and relatives as life goes on. It edited out the repeated information on chimeras and Dragon’s Teeth, so we get an explanation in the first story and just added details in the others. (The original short stories have an explanation in each story – necessary for readers who might be finding this setting for the first time picking up a new magazine, annoying if you’re reading it all together.) And it edited punctuation and italics alllll over the place, along with a few other word choices, making the dialogue sound more emotional and like natural speech.
If you want a book to work coherently, these are crucial edits.
I don’t know why the Kindle version has the “magazine version” of the stories. Possibly a copyright problem? Or someone not having access to the paperback text? Something else? But it was a shock, and not one I could have anticipated from the sample, given samples typically cover about 12%, the first story covers about 15%, and the first framing bits would have come after that. But jumping directly from the first story to “Return of the Kangaroo Rex”, without the little bits of family teasing each other about what was and wasn’t true, was jarring.
Also one minor continuity problem. While in the paperback Susan’s age isn’t mentioned much beyond late teenager, the magazine stories state her to be 16, then 18, then 16 again in later stories. You’d think, even if someone were putting the magazine stories all together in one spot, they’d catch that little detail and make a few discreet snips. Oy.
So. That’s what I’ve got. Just so you know what you’re looking at, when you find one version or the other!