Book Review: One and Wonder: Piers Anthony’s Remembered Stories, Evan Filipek, Editor
An eclectic collection of early science fiction works selected for their seminal impact on Anthony. Some good science fiction: some good stories; some neither. Don’t read the Introduction by Piers Anthony: spoilers. Not all strictly SF, some stray into urban fantasy aor horror.
“Equalizer” by Jack Williamson (1947) “Man lives at the mercy of blind chance, surviving only through a peculiar combination of improbable factors.” Utopian twaddle we all sighed over. Well written and daring for that day. No, cold fusion (or whatever) is not the answer to world peace.
“Breaking Point” by James Gunn (1953) A psychological thriller. “For man’s sense is falsely asserted to be the standard of things; on the contrary, all the perceptions, both of the senses and of the mind, bear reference to man and not to the universe; and the human mind resembles those uneven mirrors which impart their own properties to different objects … and distorts and disfigures them …. For every one … has a cave or den of his own which refracts and discolors the light of nature.” Francis Bacon (1561-1626) “Reality is what it is, and not what it seems to be.” “… using a game whose rules he knew to relate to the one whose rules he didn’t know,”
“Vengeance for Nikolai” by Walter M. Miller, Jr. 1957. Urgh.
“Wherever You May be.” James Gunn 1957. “There was something about machines and the things they made which was basically alien to the human spirit. They might disguise themselves for a time as willing slaves, but eventually, inevitably, they turned against their masters. At the psychological moment, they rebelled.”
The only one I recommend skipping is “Ground Leave Incident” by Rog Phillips. It involves a rape and many of the archaic and offensive attitudes toward it of the twentieth century.
Book Review: Deeds of Honor (Paksennerrion #10.5) by Elizabeth Moon
“Something would go wrong; something always did in war.”
Set in the world of the Paksennerrion tales, these short stories as less backstory as background. Each stands alone, concerning some minor or bridge character in the greater timeline. As the number implies, there’s a lot to cross connect.
“You can’t undo what is done or unsay what is said.”
I have only read The Farmer’s Daughter, but missing many connecting threads enhances the quality, if not the enjoyment, of these fragments. In fact, I enjoyed these short stories–because each was a self-contained whole–better than the sluggish longer work.
“Sometimes young men learn only from old men … willing to teach the hardest lessons the hardest way.”
Book Review: Pawn’s Gambit: and Other Stratagems by Timothy Zahn
“Physical reality is never obligated to correspond with our theories and constructs.”
An adequate collection of short science fiction. Quality decreases deeper into the book, however the last tale, the eponymous “Pawn’s Gambit,” is the best of the bunch.
“You risked your life to try to save people whose music you don’t even like.” “People are people, no matter what their tastes are.”
Quibble: No one would fly the two hundred miles from Frankfurt to Stuttgart. Train or car would be faster.
“Not paranoid, you understand, just cautious.”
Book Review: Stories of the Raksura 2: The Dead City & The Dark Earth Below by Martha Wells
“Now would be a good time to go, to fly west into the sun with no one to see. Except he didn’t appear to be doing that.”
Anthologies set in the world or featuring the cast of an author’s invented universe allow her to explore side issues, deepen characters and promote the greater series–especially when said short stories are offered free or included in other anthologies. Fans get a fix of a favored setting; new readers can sample without committing to a full novel. So it is here. Not great literature, not even as good as the Raksura novels, but enjoyable nonetheless.
“He had learned from bitter experiences not to try to explain unexplainable things.”
Book Review: From a Certain Point of View (Star Wars Disney Canon Novel)
“As if all the stories we heard as children were true.”
Forty authors celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the Fourth Episode, but first movie, set “long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away.” What could go wrong?
“As Obi-Wan will soon learn, the most beautiful form of mastery is the art of letting go.”
Despite the prominent Disney appellation, not much goes wrong. Uneven quality, but a better-than-average anthology of stories surrounding A New Hope from the points of view of often-peripheral characters. A bit self-referential and tongue-in-cheek, but Continue reading
Book Review: Armored, edited by John Joseph Adams
“An awful lot of people go crazy, when you take the humanity away, and lock them inside a box.”
Better-than-average anthology. While some stories are SF combat, some aren’t. The common thread is that all involve a future version of whole-body armor. Explores many interpersonal and philosophic issues. My favorites were: Field Test, Don Quixote, and N-body Solution.
“It was never about armor … it was about the man inside.”
Book Review: Tales of Old Earth: Stories by Michael Swanwick
“You won’t find the natural state here. We’re living in the aftermath.”
A really good collection of short stories. Many good stories about beginnings and endings, especially endings which may be beginnings. Lots of cliffhangers. Some post-apocalyptic, some deeply introspective. Some funny, some tragic, most thought provoking. All well fashioned.
“Self is an illusion … a fairy tale that your assemblers, sorters and functional transients tell each other.”
Swanwick has a gift with word images. Out of a few words, he fashions a complete context.
“…as cozy and snug as the inside of a walnut.”
Skip the Introduction Continue reading
Book Review: Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks
“Tell just enough of the truth, but never lie.”
Is there anything Tom Hanks can’t do … and do well? Add writing fiction to the list. His prose is compelling, if pedestrian. Great stories, with a lot of heart.
“Every day in Gotham is a little like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and a little like Baggage Claim after a long, crowded flight.”
Somewhere in each story is a cameo (at least) by an old typewriter. Hanks collects them. Occasionally their presence is an intrusion, but mostly they fit right in. At least once it serves as the McGuffin. While some are contemporary stories, many are set mid-twentieth century.
“In a flash as well defined as that from a Speed Graphic camera ringside at a prize fight …”
Best story is “These are the Meditations of my Heart.”
“… as nutty as a can of Planters.”
Book Review: Lord Peter Views the Body (Lord Peter Wimsey #4) by Dorothy L. Sayers
“Built noticin’–improved with practice.”
This anthology of early Wimsey shorts reminds me why I hate anthologies. Authors (or, more likely, publishers) sweep up all the bits and pieces of a successful author or authors and foist it on the public as great literature. The resulting collection is often–as in this case–mediocre at best.
“Nobody minds coarseness, but one must draw the line at cruelty.”
Especially avoid the novelette: “The Undignified Melodrama of the Bone of Contention.” Dreadful. “The Fascinating Problem of Uncle Meleager’s Will” will enthrall crossword puzzle enthusiasts, without leaving the rest of us clueless.
“Bunter likes me to know my place.”
Sayers wrote for different readers. She assumes a level of French and Latin literacy rare among Americans today. Wonder how contemporary (1920s) English did.
“It is … dangerous to have a theory.”
Book Review: Unbound: Tales by the Masters of Fantasy, Shawn Speakman, editor
“The world conspires to take everything from us in the end.”
Like most anthologies the junk outweighs the jewels, but in this case the good stories are very good: worth the price of the whole collection. I’ll ignore the garbage and review the gems. Skip the first two, they’re trash. If there’s a theme to this collection, other than raising money for authors with medical bills, is that these are stories about story.
“To cling to common wisdom, no matter the evidence right in front of one’s nose, was an affliction as old as love.”
By far the best story in the set is “The Game” by Michael J. Sullivan. If you read no other, read this one. It’s the best take on “Dial ‘F’ for Frankenstein” I’ve seen in decades.
“Ignore it the way all rational men ignore all irrational things.”
“Jury Duty” by Jim Butcher is great if you like Dresden Files, which I do.
“No man’s an island. Not even the ones that think they are. Especially not them.”
“Uncharming” by Delilah S. Dawson started so bad, I almost quit. But it got better–much better.
Nice cover art. I don’t see a credit for it, but it’s good.
“Stories brought relief, comfort, and hope.”