Chris Schonberger
April 18, 2008 AT 04:00 AM EDT

In The Baum Plan for Financial Independence, his first collection in a decade, John Kessel jumps from place to place like a jolty time machine. In ”Pride and Prometheus,” Frankenstein and Jane Austen intersect in an uncanny Victorian tale of unrequited love, while ”A Lunar Quartet” introduces a matriarchal, hypersexual moon colony in the future. But as a group, these stories offer a sustained exploration of the ways gender dynamics can both empower and enslave us. Kessel’s wit sparkles throughout, peaking with the most uproariously weird phone-sex conversation you’ll ever read (”The Red Phone”). A-

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