The Dark Ride: The Best Short Fiction of John Kessel

The Dark Ride: The Best Short Fiction of John Kessel

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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.”

Limited: 1000 signed numbered hardcover copies


"...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.”

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
584 pages
United States
Subterranean Press
In Print