Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Starry Rift - Jonathan Strahan

All hail Awesome Alastair Reynolds, Modern Master Of the Spaceways.

Now, that being said, apart from Cory Doctorow it is all downhill from there. Luckily, though, not too much of a slide, and in general, this is a high quality original anthology, averaging a considerable 3.69.

There are some odd things about it, though. The editor says in his intro "that he "..turned to a handful of the best writers in the field asking them to write stories that would offer today's readers the same kind of thrill enjoyed by pulp readers over 50 years ago."

Does he mean before Galaxy and Fantasy and Science Fiction? For a book produced for an audience where the introduction actually footnotes the terms space opera and even, oddly enough, Cold War, perhaps a little more definition or explanation is wanted, for readers on that simple, young, or uneducated a level. If the gold Martiniere cover is supposed to indicate the Golden Age of SF, that may be too subtle for almost everyone.

Noting people mentioning they use they got out of the basic list of further fantasy reading provided by Gary Gygax in the first edition of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, that is an opportunity completely missed here, too. If this is a book designed to interest younger readers that need the basic level of footnote guidance given at the start, a list of possible work to check out is a basic requirement of such a book, as far as I can see. A self-promotional list of what each writer has done before is not the same thing, given however much if it is fantasy, or mainstream as Gwyneth Jones mentions. Have to commend Jeffrey Ford for pointing out an author that such readers may like to check out here, though. There's a complete blank double sheet of paper wasted at the end of this book, too. Why wouldn't you use it? Nothing about current magazine or other sources of stories, either.

Now, the type of stories. Some of them are exactly what the editor said he was aiming for. Stephen Baxter, for example, gives it a humrous 110% if you like. Whereas as far as Kelly Link goes, it is much closer to 0%. In fact, you could go so far as to call her story 'Have Soccer Ball, Won't Travel'. I would think she would be about as far as you can get from a natural writer of that sort of science fiction, and as an example of such, she makes a sports reporter. Not a very good one at that, as it seems she is ignorant of a basic term like 'save' as far as goalkeepers go. Despite all the namedropping of SF paperback authors in the actual story, she completely fails to get it. In fact, Kage Baker or Connie Willis, too of the women whose books were mentioned by her in the work would certainly have done a better job.

There is no way such a kid as in that story would be.
Strahan's comment thanking about her 'persevering' suggests she might have struggled with writing anything this straightforward. If that is the case, why use writers like that, when you would be full aware of their style. I can't imagine these sort of people (unlike a Gaiman) are likely to help you move books in a way that say, a Peter F. Hamilton or someone like that might. Westerfeld's story is good and the right type, for example, but not sure I buy a 13 year old boy taking as his weight allowance an ancient paper book for much younger readers, when he lives in a future time that has working cryosleep voyages to distant stars for colony reasons.

Never thought I'd compare her to Greg Egan, but the same goes for his tale of detention centres. An issue obviously important to him, but similarly a story in which nothing happens in the 'youthful action sense'. Neither would readers of Planet Stories or the equivalent Halo books or whatever today be much interested in stories of whether to regrow the clone of your dead brother, yourself, perhaps. They aren't bad stories, they just in no way whatsoever fit the mold that I see as being implied in the introduction. For the rst, I'd suggest that McDonald's story is closer to the Egan and Link end, but far, far less static and introverted, with suborned killer robot monkeys as an example. Halam/Jones, Reynolds, McAuley, Sullivan, Nix, Doctorow and Williams are more down toward the Baxter, if you want to look at it like that.

On the Asimov's forum, Gardner Dozois mentions that a lot of these stories could pretty easily appear in adult magazines, and for most of them, those not at the Westerfeld and Jones end of the scale, he is probably right. So there is a fair amount here for the adult reader to enjoy. Ford and Langan for example, you wouldn't see as child protagonist focused or aimed pieces at all.

That being said, the kids in this book, because it is from a children's imprint label, are a very chaste and straitlaced bunch. More on looking at this for adult readers: pretty much no sex, drugs, alcohol or rock and roll, except in the case of Walter Jon Williams' far more realistic view of the actual lives of your more standard teenager, where you get the lot. Obviously this sort of content watering down, writing about how parents 'in general' want books aimed at younger readers to be, will continue to happen, particularly if they are hoping to flog this to those buying for the single digit age group. Such parents of course completely ignore what most of them got up to at the same age.

Overall this volume was quite a bit better than I thought it would be, certainly being less simple than I expected. Looking at the list of authors, it does run more true to form of what you would expect, there. When Gardner Dozois mentions that this could be the best original anthology of the year, he may well be right. Original anthologies rating over 4 are pretty rare, and this is a solid 4.25, that is going to benefit from some rounding. A little more or improved ancillary material could have got it to a native 4.5. On that, I notice there is a website, but I don't think I saw a reference to it in the book, or at least not an obvious one. If no authors there, shouldn't that be on the cover?


Starry Rift : Ass-Hat Magic Spider - Scott Westerfeld
Starry Rift : Cheats - Gwyneth Jones
Starry Rift : Orange - Neil Gaiman
Starry Rift : The Surfer - Kelly Link
Starry Rift : Repair Kit - Stephen Baxter
Starry Rift : The Dismantled Invention of Fate - Jeffrey Ford
Starry Rift : Anda's Game - Cory Doctorow
Starry Rift : Sundiver Day - Kathleen Ann Goonan
Starry Rift : The Dust Assassin - Ian McDonald
Starry Rift : The Star Surgeon's Apprentice - Alastair Reynolds
Starry Rift : An Honest Day's Work - Margo Lanagan
Starry Rift : Lost Continent - Greg Egan
Starry Rift : Incomers - Paul McAuley
Starry Rift : Post-Ironic Stress Syndrome - Tricia Sullivan
Starry Rift : Infestation - Garth Nix
Starry Rift : Pinocchio - Walter Jon Williams


Charlotte's colony diet Web.

4 out of 5


Neuronaut hack recruit.

3.5 out of 5


Question?

3 out of 5


Shortjock quarantine cult leader death alien landing.

3.5 out of 5


Timestream quantum fuse fix, thanks!

3.5 out of 5


Robot off button.

3 out of 5


Liza, Lisa, Anda's clan jam game grunt gold grab gunplay showdown.

4.5 out of 5


Well, I'll be a brother's mother.

3 out of 5


Black Widow water rights kiss.

4 out of 5


Butcher boy pirate fry-up Baby Makes Three.

4.5 out of 5


Timber! monster brain buster.

3.5 out of 5


Future detention centre.

3.5 out of 5


Spy seeking stuffup space war city save memorial story.

4 out of 5


M-Space Meeting with Medusa forfeit team-up unM-asked.

4 out of 5


Vampire$ slayer scenario not alien to Judas.

4 out of 5


Gorilla too vanilla for flash in the pan pack-man.

3.5 out of 5





4.5 out of 5

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