Ride the wave of highs and lows from 1986 (3/5)
Joachim detests (hence his pre-1980s SF reviews). With the publication of
this collection, his opinion is cemented in the many poor choices for this
anthology. I don't think I've ever been so disappointed with an
anthology, but this 1987 collection of 1986 stories had more lower lows
than its highs. For the sake of academic reference I'll keep this on my
shelves, but I'd prefer to find other collections that have the same
great stories reviewed below.
Zelazny's "Permafrost" was
nominated for the Nebula best novelette but won the Hugo award, Pat
Cardigan's "Pretty Boy Crossover" was nominated for the Nebula best
short story, and Lucius Shepard's "R&R" was nominated foe the Hugo
best novella but ended up winning Nebula award instead.
Zelazny: Permafrost (novelette) - 5/5 - On an adult entertainment
planet experiencing a fifty year winter, Dorothy and Paul are the sole
inhabitants acting as caretakers along with the human mind-based
computer, Andrew Aldon. With ever-approaching glaciers and a frightening
weather system, Aldon is the defender and supervisor for the town of
Playpoint. When a particular weather system seems to be steering Paul to
a specific destination, Aldon warns the man but the latent planetary
prowess proves too manipulative for Aldon's protective circuits. 25
pages ----- This is the first Zelanzy I've liked. It's got a enticing
detailed background with a cast that's interesting and headed into an
odd peril. This is by far the best story in the collection, so from here
onto page 303 it's bumpy ride.
Doris Egan: Timerider (novelette)
- 3/5 - Brian Cornwall is being evaluated in 1957 by a team of time
travelers. Their mission is to secure the Japanese swan sculpture at the
museum Brian works for. Ceece is part of the team geared towards
contact and influence. Due to the high cost of physical time travel,
only holograms and likenesses are typically sent through, but Ceece's
increasing interest in Brian peaks when the death they have planned for
him tugs at her heart. The alien D'drendt overlords feign interest. 57
pages ----- This is fairly detailed, too, with the human race having
been defeated by an avian alien race. The enticement lays in the
mysterious motives of the aliens and the fate of the pawn of Brian.
Cadigan: Pretty Boy Crossover (shortstory) - 3/5 - Allowed to bide
one's time as one sees fit, the uploaded personality of Bobby relishes
an existence spent in the narcissistic limelight of an eternity dancing
in front of a crowded club. Referred to as a Pretty Boy, Bobby attracts a
fellow Pretty Boy who adores his attention and gyrations. However, the
small crowd gathered at the foot of the stairs and the mohawked bouncer
aren't the people they appear to be. 12 pages ----- This had an odd, odd
start. The initial flavor of cyberpunk was irksome, but the conclusion
set it above the bar with the rest of the 80s sub-genre.
Shepard: R&R (novella) - 1/5 - Mingolla is stationed in Guatemala
with his desertion daydreaming army friends Baylor and Gilby. Given
their prolonged service with the surety of death in he Latin American
war, escape to Panama becomes a reoccurring fantasy, a fantasy which
becomes personified when Mingolla meets a fellow sixth-sensing lady who
foresees his grisly death on the battlefield. Skirting the issue and her
company, Mingolla sticks with the boys. 87 pages ----- There's a war in
Latin America. That's about as far into science fiction this story
gets. It's tediously long and really has no place in this collection.
HOW this is one of the best SF stories of 1986 is beyond me.
Haden Elgin: Lo, How an Oak E'er Blooming (shortstory) - 4/5 - On a
chilly February day in Madison, Wisconsin, a lecturer begs for a
miracle, for the oak tree outside to burst into blossom. With more than
fifty witnesses to the miracle, mob mentality regarding the sudden
growth is nulled. All the sciences throw every test at the tree and yet
it continues to regenerate its blossoms and stave off death by
poisoning. Society embraces the miracles but the military, as always,
feels threatened. 10 pages ----- The science isn't as paramount as the
reaction to the impossible. The miracle isn't what shines, but it's the
social impact of the certified mystery.
Jerry Meredith & D.E.
Smirl: Dream in a Bottle (shortstory) - 4/5 - Approaching a nebulous
cloud of interstellar hydrogen, a ramscoop ship opens its magnetic maw
to accept the fuel while en route to Zeta Reticuli IV. Piloted by
catatonic minds living in their own deceptive cerebral fantasies, a
rotating crew monitors the ship's and pilot's progress. To bide their
time en route, the crew, too, delve into their own personal fantasies.
When one pilot awakens on the bridge, Michael slips into other's
realities. 15 pages ----- The hardest science fiction in this
collection, it's a little hard to grasp just exactly what's going on. A
tad on the cyberpunk side, the immersion of the cast into virtual
reality creates alternate realities, some of which overlap.
Lee: Into Gold (novelette) - 2/5 - From the East come the traveling
caravan of a miller and his daughter. The prince of the village doing
the trading wishes to marry the daughter, whose ability to render all
things into gold makes believers of some and skeptics of others. Draco's
captain Skorous takes a disliking to the witchcraft the woman performs
but remains loyal to his prince even through the birth of the couple's
son. When a neighboring village requests her healing gift, Skorous
closely follows. 34 pages ----- Wollheim said it best in his
introduction, "...if you want to dispute that this is science fiction,
take it up with the world's most popular science writer [Asimov]" (206).
This story was later published in a collection of fantasy. Verdict
Howard Waldrop: The Lions are Asleep This Night
(novelette) - 1/5 - Robert Oinenke is growing up in Niger with mere
pennies to spend on printed books and plays. His mother sees the
purchases as a waste of money and his headmaster sees the matter as a
waste of time. Robert discovers that classic English playwrights sell
for cheap and becomes inspired to write his own play. With no one to
mentor his elemental growth as a playwright, Robert sees to it himself
that his play is not only read, but also published for all to read. 23
pages ----- Something here about an alternative history and playwrights.
Lost on me.
Robert Silverberg: Against Babylon (novelette) - 3/5
- Carmichael flies into southern California to pilot a DC-3 during a
spat of wildfire. Having been out of touch for the last three days, Mike
learns that the three wildfires were caused by the three UFOs that
ignited the brush with their exhaust. Oddly less worrisome is not being
able to contact his eccentric L.A.-loving wife Cindy. When news comes of
her kidnapping, he seems happy for her new placement. 23 pages -----
This story has elements the reader will later find in Silverberg's
novella "Hot Times in Magma City" (1995) and his novel The Alien Years (1998), neither
of which I liked. But like The Alien Years, the ultimate reasons for the
aliens' visit is left unknown.
Damon Knight: Stranger on
Paradise (shortstory) - 4/5 - Biographer Howard Selby attains permission
to visit the planet of Paradise only after an exhaustive physical
examination, disinfection, and blood replacement. Paradise is the only
inhabitable planet ever found, where all diseases are unknown and the
native life prove ineffective with Earth life. The idyllic planet was
once home to a famous poet, the same poet whose work Howard is trying to
dive into. When he comes across a cryptic sonnet, his opinion of the
planet plummets. 18 pages ----- A great start but a kind of sloppy
ending, the sonnet separated a great shortstory from a decent short
story. The motivation for the conclusion was weak but its effects were
great. Good conclusion for the collection, in general.