The Dark Ride eBook

The Dark Ride eBook

eBook Edition
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“Completely strange and idiosyncratic. His stories are singular experiences... They burst out of their texts with news that is strange, mysterious, beyond reason or parsing—beyond Kessel himself, it seems, who must have been as startled as anyone to see such sentences appear on his page. They are uncanny. “

 —Kim Stanley Robinson, from his Introduction


The Dark Ride collects John Kessel’s best short fiction, beginning with 1981’s “Not Responsible! Park and Lock It!” and ending with 2021’s “The Dark Ride.” The stories range from flash pieces to novellas, from comedy to existential horror, from far future SF to Kafkaesque fantasy, including 40,000 words of never-before-collected fiction and extensive author’s notes. 

All his best are here, among them Nebula Award winners “Another Orphan” and “Pride and Prometheus,” by the writer Sci-Fi Weekly called  “quite possibly the best short story writer working in science fiction today.”


"...capable of the most artful and rigorous literary composition, but with a mischievious genius that inclines him toward speculative fiction...[Kessel] writes with subtlety and great wit...and his craftsmanship is frequently absolutely brilliant.  Plus, his sense of comedy is remarkable."

Publishers Weekly


“Articulate, polished, dazzlingly ingenious, thoroughly varied but essentially of a piece...a systematic demonstration of just what, in serious and ambitious hands, contemporary literary SF can do.” 

—Nick Gevers, Infinity Plus


"These are stories that liberate the mind, which of course is what escapism is all about."

 --New York Times Book Review


From Publishers Weekly (Starred Review):

“It takes a brilliant author to pull off a Jane Austen–Mary Shelley mash-up, but Kessel does so with aplomb in the moving and suspenseful ‘Pride and Prometheus,’ which introduces Mary, the most bookish Bennett sister, to Victor Frankenstein… Across the board, these exceptional tales showcase Kessel’s remarkable ability to encourage suspension of disbelief through even the wildest what-ifs. This is a master storyteller at work.”

From Locus:

“For me, Kessel’s most iconic story, ‘’The Pure Product’’, draws its title and some of its sensibil­ity from William Carlos Williams, a poet who famously disdained allegory and symbolism (his most famous quotation is probably ‘‘no ideas but in things’’; Kessel’s title comes from Williams’s ‘The pure products of America/go crazy’). Kessel’s blithely amoral time traveler terrorizing his way through 1980s America may be part of what briefly earned Kessel the label of ‘savage humanist,’ and may be related to the anarchic ‘Tyler Durden’ in ‘Stories for Men’, the time-traveling Detlev Gruber of ‘Some Like it Cold’ and ‘The Miracle of Ivar Avenue’ or the profes­sional thieves of ‘The Baum Plan for Financial Independence’. But ‘The Pure Product’ is also a road-trip tale with echoes all the way back to Kerouac. When the narrator notes, ‘You lose track of how long you have been on the road, where are you going,’ he seems to be directly setting us up for the endless road trip of ‘Not Responsible! Park and Lock It!’ whose hapless (and mostly hopeless) characters live their entire lives on superhighways. Like much of Kessel’s most disturbing fiction, it carries just enough SFnal extrapolation to make it almost credible, but is essentially an absurdist parable.”


From Locus Magazine:

“I love big career-retrospective single-author collections, especially when the author provides notes on genesis and biographical context. John Kessel’s turn has come with The Dark Ride, a gathering of 20 stories from 1981-2021 that shows his command of a wide range of motifs and styles and his recurring concerns in our field and beyond. It adds up to a map of a career that has been interestingly consistent over the four decades covered.”



Table of Contents:

  • Introduction by Kim Stanley Robinson
  • Not Responsible! Park and Lock It!
  • Events Preceding the Helvetican Renaissance
  • Pride and Prometheus
  • The Motorman’s Coat
  • The Closet
  • Some Like It Cold
  • The Miracle of Ivar Avenue
  • Spirit Level
  • Stories for Men
  • The Pure Product
  • Gulliver at Home
  • Buddha Nostril Bird
  • Invaders
  • The Lecturer
  • Buffalo
  • Clean
  • Another Orphan
  • Consolation
  • The Baum Plan for Financial Independence
  • The Dark Ride
  • Story Notes
John Kessel
eBook Edition