“Alastair Baffle’s Emporium of Wonders” is a thoughtful story about one of those mysterious shops, this on a magic supply store at which a couple of boys meet, leading to a lifelong partnership. And now they are aging, and try to find the store one last time. Inevitably, when they find it, they find that there is real magic on offer. But is such magic really worth the price? This is one of Resnick’s better stories, though still not really one to which I’d give a Hugo. In the end, for me, the final revelations weren’t intriguing or new enough to push the story from “decent” to “special”.
In “Alastair Baffle’s Emporium of Wonders” by Mike Resnick, Silver and Gold are two old men who met each other as kids in the titular shop, which purports to sell magic tricks. They are now ninety-year-olds in a retirement home, reminiscing on the past, but they decide to take one last look at the shop, to see whether it’s still there, and when they find out it is, Baffle makes them an offer hard to refuse…
Although this starts slowly, I loved the atmosphere that it drew, from Chicago in the thirties to the present day, and the Emporium of Wonders is truly a wonderful place. The interplay between the two main characters was spot-on and often hilarious as they nagged at each other. The ending was not altogether surprising, but it succeeded in presenting both answers to a dilemma in a clever fashion, while not passing judgments on either. Recommended.
Like a lot of Resnick’s writing, this story is a bit sentimental, but it didn’t take the obvious and expected ending. It’s about two old men, lifetime friends and partners in all sorts of things, who first met in a mysterious magic store. As retirees living in a nursing home, they decide on a final adventure and try to find some trace of the store that meant so much to their childhood. As one might expect, they succeed in finding it, and from there the two men have different reactions nad follow different paths. I liked the ending; it avoids any obvious happy ending and tells a more complicated story about aging, belief, memories, and decisions. (7)
The short story “Alastair Baffle’s Emporium of Wonders” by Mike Resnick (in the January 2008 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine) deserves to be on every award and anthology short-list next year. Not only is the story amazingly well written, it’ll stab you through the heart while leaving you both sad and optimistic about humanity and our desires. This is Resnick at his very best.
Stalwart Mike Resnick’s story “Alastair Baffle’s Emporium of Wonders” is a haunting tale of two old men having one last roll of the dice. They venture out of their sheltered home in search of a magic shop they remembered from the youth and lo and behold, they find it, just exactly as it was seventy years ago. Weirdly, the proprietor is equally unchanged. It is a bittersweet story of ambitions unfulfilled, suffused with gentle humour and a generous pinch of pathos.
At the other end of the age range, is a very, very satisfying story from Resnick. Two old guys, sharing a flat in a retirement complex, are getting very near to the end of their lives and their almost life-long friendship. With creaking joints and failing organs, they reflect on their moment of first meeting, in the magic store which they visited as children. They reflect on that time, as young boys when all was possible, and indeed, Alastair Baffle seemed to suggest that even more was possible.
Maury Gold is determined to see if the shop is still there. Against all the odds, of course, as he is 92, so the shop must be long gone. Nate Silver reluctantly accompanies him, and they find that not only is the shop still there, but so is the owner, and Mr Baffle appears to be not a year older. It appears that Baffle has much more to offer than sleight of hand tricks, and Gold is quite willing to take what is on offer, whilst Silver less so.
It’s an extremely effective but gentle and subtle story.
A bit more positive than the initial reactions here, then. But what did you think?