This review was first published by Booklist in August 2019.
**STARRED REVIEW** Egan (Perihelion Summer, 2019), a master of short form science fiction, has collected twenty of what he considers the best of his short works from the past thirty years. By presenting these works in chronological order, the collection highlights the growth of his skill as a writer: readers see his style become more elegant and subtle, his characters more nuanced and empathetic, his stories more incisive. As satisfying as each story is on its own, the greatest reward of this collection is witnessing Egan’s development as a storyteller. It also brings his obsessions front-and-center: the workings of the human mind (“Axiomatic,” “Reasons to Be Cheerful”), reason and identity (“Learning to Be Me,” “Closer,” “Uncanny Valley”), humanity’s relationship to technology (“Appropriate Love,” “Bit Players”), artificial intelligence (“Singleton,” “Crystal Nights”), the relationship between science and faith (“Oracle,” “Oceanic”), and his deep fascination with mathematics (“Luminous,” “Dark Integers”). This retrospective is sure to be treasured by Egan’s many fans, and it presents an excellent doorway for new readers to discover and explore his work for the first time.
This review was first published by Booklist on June 14, 2019.
Galaxy’s Edge, a monthly sf and fantasy magazine edited by Mike Resnick, has been publishing interviews with prominent figures from the sf and fantasy fields since 2014, all conducted by Joy Ward. Conversations from the Edge collects 25 of these interviews into a single volume, in what will hopefully be the first of many such collections. The interviews are an impressive who’s who: George R. R. Martin, David Brin, Connie Willis, Larry Niven, Lois McMaster Bujold, David Drake, Greg Bear, and many more. Some interviews are presented as they originally appeared in the magazine, and some are expanded. They’re remarkable for their candidness: Ward has a talent for encouraging her subjects to speak deeply and at length, with honesty and candor. The interviewees speak about such topics as their personal history, their writing process, where they find inspiration, where they see the genres headed, even how they define sf and fantasy (there’s not as much agreement about this as one might think). This book is a treasure for fans and historians of sf.
This review was first published by Booklist on June 1, 2019.
**STARRED REVIEW** In her introduction, Hurley (The Light Brigade, 2019) admits that short stories aren’t her typical fare: her heart belongs to novels. And yet, she has produced one of the best story collections of the past few years. Hurley imagines brutal worlds, and her work is typically violent and vulgar. But as these stories make clear, her visions offer much more than shock value: these tales are emotionally powerful, lyrical, occasionally hopeful, and flirt with the profound. She creates worlds and characters as full and fascinating in a dozen pages as any she offers in her longer works. They throw into stark relief the core themes of her larger body of work: physical and linguistic expressions of gender or bodies fraught with illness (“Elephants and Corpses,” “Tumbledown,” “The Plague Givers”); war and the cycle of violence (“The Red Secretary,” “Garda,” “The War of Heroes”); storytelling as a medium for both social control and individual freedom (“Sinners on Solid Ground,” “The Corpse Archives”). What makes Hurley’s stories unique is her focus on what comes after: after war, after plague, after the collapse of civilization. These are stories that pack a punch. Highly recommended for existing fans and as an introduction for new readers.
This review was first published by Booklist on March 15, 2019.
The Science Fiction Fanzine Reader offers a fascinating look into the culture of early science fiction fandom during its first three decades. Given the cheap and ephemeral nature of these fanzines, this book is the culmination of a remarkable research project by Ortiz (Emshwiller, 2007). He collects dozens of articles, editorials, letters, and commentary written by sf fans between 1930 and 1960, as well as a handful of pieces where fans reflect back on their early days in fandom. It’s an engrossing glimpse into the mindset of sf readers in the middle of the twentieth century. This isn’t a straight history—readers need to have a solid knowledge of the history of science fiction and fandom in order to get the most out of it. The selections don’t seem to be in any order—they’re not grouped by theme or chronologically, which obscures broader patterns within the history of fanzines. Still, this book is for committed historians of the sf genre.
This review was first published by Booklist on July 5, 2018.
A Voice in the Night brings together 24 short stories by McDevitt (The Long Sunset, 2018)—tales of space exploration and artificial intelligence, even a couple of alternate-history yarns. Many highlight McDevitt’s concerns about the future of space travel and the unlikelihood of encountering other intelligent life in the universe, as well as worries about the future of our planet. Most of the stories in this collection were published in the past two decades, with a handful from the previous millennium, so it’s not a complete retrospective. Two stories are award-worthy: “Good Intentions” was a Nebula nominee in 1998, and “Ships in the Night” was an International SF winner in 1993. Of particular interest to McDevitt’s readers are two stories from his well-known Academy series, detailing Priscilla Hutchins’ qualification flight when she first became a starship pilot, in addition to several other stories set in the Academy universe. McDevitt’s fans will welcome this collection.
This review was first published by Booklist on July 5, 2018.
Hurley’s collection revisits the world of the Bel Dame Apocrypha (beginning with God’s War, 2011) with five stories featuring intergalactic bounty hunter Nyxnissa so Dasheem (aka Nyx) and her crew on some of their dangerous jobs. The plots are taut, thrilling, gritty, violent, profane, magical—everything Hurley’s readers expect. New readers will not feel lost in this world—Hurley has created one of the most engrossing environments in modern sf—but fans will delight in learning how Nix meets Khos and the first time she hires Anneke. Though there is not much personal growth, all of the characters are well realized, even in the short story format, and each story covers familiar interpersonal conflicts and emotional highs and lows. These stories were previously published online, but fans of sf adventure stories with lots of political intrigue will welcome them in print.
This review was first published by Booklist on March 3, 2017.
Taylor is on a mission to create science fiction written by indigenous First Nations authors. That alone makes his collection of short stories important. These nine stories are highly entertaining, the quality is high, and his range of tone is impressive. The First Nations perspective gives an interesting take on the “first contact” theme, paralleling the arrival of Europeans to the Americas. Most of these stories are humorous, but there are a couple serious ones thrown in. Many have a 1950s, Silver Era, silly pop-movie feel, which lends them a nostalgic patina. Unfortunately, the retro feel of these stories is at odds with the progressive goal of the author, coming across a tad dated and frivolous. The collection is a fun and quick read, but as entertaining as these stories are, such a slim volume isn’t quite enough to satisfy. Still, readers will be looking for more to come from Taylor.
I got into Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus novels a couple of years ago and the character immediately became one of my favorites, ranking alongside Spencer, Jim Chee & Joe Leaphorn, Alex Delaware, and V.I. Warshawski. John Rebus is a fascinating police detective.
The Beat Goes On collects all of Mr. Rankin’s Inspector Rebus short stories and presents them in chronological order. Reading through them is a delightful journey through the history of this character.
I tend to be cautious about short stories in the mystery genre. The short form is too short to create truly compelling whodunits. The mystery aspect must necessarily be rather simplistic, due to spatial constraints.