Sunday, February 08, 2009

Book review: "Masterpieces: The Best Science Fiction of the Century"

I don't read much short fiction in general -- I've always preferred novels -- so I haven't read many of the great science fiction short stories. I've read The Martian Chronicles, of course, although arguably it's a novel rather than a story collection. My mother got me an anthology of early Gardner Dozois stories when I was in junior high school. I remember being deeply moved, disturbed even, by "Chains of the Sea." I've also read most of Philip K. Dick's major stories, and a few other collections here and there, but not much else.

So I was pleased to run across Masterpieces: The Best Science Fiction of the Century, edited by Orson Scott Card, in the library while looking for Ursula K. Le Guin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" because of something I saw on Daily Kos.

I can't say whether the book lives up to its title. It includes the biggest names, like Heinlein, Sturgeon, Asimov, Clarke, and Bradbury, as well as many I'm less familiar with, but I'm not knowledgeable enough to say whether anything was left out that should be in (though I wish "Chains of the Sea" was in it). But I found most of the stories to indeed be excellent ones.

To me, Theodore Sturgeon's "A Saucer of Loneliness" was the most moving -- or maybe I should say "elevating" -- of the stories, although I also found the ending of "Dogfight" by William Gibson and Michael Swanwick to be suddenly and unexpectedly wrenching. I also particularly enjoyed "Sandkings" by George R. R. Martin (I'd only read his "Song of Ice and Fire" books before) and "The Road Not Taken" by Harry Turtledove (first time I'd read him).

But again, I found most of the other stories, including the thought-provoking "Omelas," Harlan Ellison's "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman" (what a wonderful title), and "Who Can Replace a Man?" by Brian W. Aldiss to be excellent as well. So I highly recommend Masterpieces: The Best Science Fiction of the Century.

1 comment:

What do you think?