Jim Van Pelt’s first collection, Strangers and Beggars, was voted one of the Best Books of 2003 by the American Library Association. Now, in this new collection, Van Pelt continues to explore the ever-changing boundaries of science fiction, fantasy and horror. Van Pelt is one of the best writers of speculative fiction writing today. The Last of the O-Forms is an important collection filled with stories that transport us to far-flung worlds and to the harder-to-find inner worlds that define the human condition. Finalist for the 2007 Colorado Blue Spruce Award for fiction.
"In the stories of Van Pelt's Strangers and Beggars (2002), civilization as we know it may have gone to smash, but for the characters, tomorrow is still another day. Same here. In the title story, a menagerie of mutant animals is losing business because humans are mutating, too, and don't want to be reminded; on the other hand, humans are mutating, too, so . . . In "A Flock of Birds," perhaps 50,000 people remain in the U.S. after a big biowar, but some other creatures are unaffected--and more. The ghost story "Do Good," about a high-school assistant principal nearing retirement, skirts the maudlin to become heartwarming. Three futuristic crime tales, three stories of sports and games to come, a Lovecraft pastiche set in the Old West, a couple of yarns--one sf, the other a ghost story--spun out of classic movies, and three more stories are just as satisfying for their realistically developed milieus and actions as for their surprises and ironies. They're colorful and flavorful, too: terrific stories."
"From spine-tingling visions of the future to good old-fashioned ghost stories, this anthology has something to please fans of the various fantastic genres...Van Pelt's unique ideas, unusual situations, and plot twists both pique the reader's interest and engage the imagination. Evocative of writers such as Ray Bradbury and Stephen King, Van Pelt offers speculative fiction at its best."
"Grand Junction author James van Pelt has won a reputation as one the field's leading short fiction writers. His second collection is a fine demonstration that the reputation is warranted. The recurring theme in the book is extinction. In the Nebula-nominated title story, Dr. Trevin's Travelling Zoological Extravaganza has had some success showing its menagerie of mutant animals. This season there are more mutants and fewer original forms around. The novelty show has lost its novelty and is on its last legs. Trevin and his precocious daughter have to find a new gimmick to keep the show afloat. Many of van Pelt's futures are overcrowded and species are dying. "A Flock of Birds" is the story of the last bird watcher in Colorado. Several stories are set in Shotgun City. It's the stretched-out area where the Eisenhower Tunnel is converted into housing for the service workers needed to support the crush of people in the Interstate 70 corridor. Van Pelt is versatile and ranges from science fiction to fantasy. In outer space, gambling takes on a new meaning in a casino set on a comet with increasing chances of breaking apart as it approaches the sun. "Once They Were Monarchs" puts an old fantasy creature in a modern swimming pool. Science fiction always has thrived with the help of small publishers. They are often the only publishers for short-story collections, but they are also the home of some worthy novels."
—The Denver Post
"The Last of the O-Forms & Other Stories is the latest collection from James Van Pelt. His previous collection was selected by the American Library Association as one of their best books of 2003, and the title story of this collection was a Nebula finalist for 2004. Clearly, Van Pelt has been recognized as a growing talent in the field, and I’m happy to say that this collection confirms his reputation. Mr. Van Pelt shows an apocalyptic streak in this collection. Stories like “The Last of the O-Forms,” “Perceptual Set,” and “A Flock of Birds” have disease menaces threatening humanity, while people destroy themselves in “The Long Way Home.” Even “Friday, After the Game” has humanity dealing with such themes. But there are many lighter, playful tales as well, like “A Wow Finish” and “The Sound of One Foot Dancing.” Surely, The Last of the O-Forms & Other Stories, as solidly written and enjoyable as it is, will receive similar accolades as Van Pelt's previous collection."
"Every now and again a relatively unheralded piece of writing lands in a reviewer’s lap and after the initial surprise of reading and loving it, the first thought is that you have to let the world know about it. Here is a case in point. All in all I was continuously surprised with Last of the O-Forms -- it resists easy classification and instead insists that readers just let Van Pelt take you along for the ride, let you think that a story like “Do Good” is about one thing and then accept that really, it is about something totally different. If you give up all your preconceptions, all your ideas about what science fiction is, then Van Pelt can remind you of what it is supposed to be -- how it is supposed to transport readers to different worlds, different times, different perspectives while still making you feel, making you believe, that it could happen at any time; that it is happening all the time. He wants to take you for the ride of a lifetime which is why so many of us love science fiction in the first place. It’s that ride that keeps us coming back for more, it’s the long strange trip that reminds us of all the possibilities we have forgotten. You probably have not heard of James Van Pelt and that is a small tragedy. He has a powerful gift for writing small stories with big hearts, a gift that far too few writers are willing to take a chance on. Each time I thought I knew where he was going with a story, he taught me just how easily I could be fooled. He made me believe again with his words, believe in a thousand different things. Mostly though, he made believe that anything was possible and for that, especially for that, I will recommend his book to everyone I know."
"I always expect something special from a James Van Pelt story, and yet I’m surprised each time by the depth and beauty of that special something he instills in every one."
"One of the freshest thinkers and most original voices in modern science fiction."
—Robert J. Sawyer
"Van Pelt’s fiction crystallizes the journeys of his characters, examining their lives between one heartbeat and the next before releasing them and you, the reader, to voyage onward, profoundly affected by the experience."
"These are stories that will change how you see those around you and how you see yourself. Simply outstanding."
—Julie E. Czerneda
"James Van Pelt is a serious writer in the very best sense. His stories are literate, gripping, and meaningful."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
James Van Pelt, a high school English teacher, is also a full-time science fiction, fantasy and horror writer (among other things). His short stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Asimov's, Analog, Talebones, Realms of Fantasy, Weird Talesand others. His books include five short story collections and two novels, available here on Fairwood Press's site.
He has been a Nebula finalist, a John W. Campbell Award finalist, and has been nominated for Pushcart prizes. His first collection was named a Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association, and his last collection won the Colorado Book Award. Many of his short stories have appeared in various Year’s Best collections.