The art of writing great science fiction is that it challenges the imagination, pushing it to extreme limits and in this anthology, selecting some of the best modern science fiction from the last fifty years, twenty leading authors of the genre ask the question 'What if...?' and then give their own very personal views of the changes and surprises which may befall humanity in the centuries to come. In Ulla, Ulla Eric Brown recounts the first manned Martian expedition and discovers that H. G. Wells may have been ...
The art of writing great science fiction is that it challenges the imagination, pushing it to extreme limits and in this anthology, selecting some of the best modern science fiction from the last fifty years, twenty leading authors of the genre ask the question 'What if...?' and then give their own very personal views of the changes and surprises which may befall humanity in the centuries to come. In Ulla, Ulla Eric Brown recounts the first manned Martian expedition and discovers that H. G. Wells may have been right after all. In The Infinite Assassin Greg Egan polices the dimensions, seeking those who are taking over their alternate selves. Geoffrey A. Landis takes us into the depths of a black hole in Approaching Perimelasma. Is the ultimate Utopia heaven or hell? Robert Sheckley finds out in the classic A Ticket to Tranai. These and other stories by James White, Eric Frank Russell, Robert Reed, H. Beam Piper and H. Chandler Elliot make this one of the most entertaining and thought-provoking science fiction anthologies in lightyears.
Fans who prefer their SF heavy on ideas will enjoy prolific British editor Ashley's latest anthology, comprising 22 tales, mostly reprints, which focus on the question, "what if?" Stories range in tone from deadly serious, as a colonist on an alien planet avenges the desecration of his wife's grave (Peter Hamilton's "Deathday"), to a romp featuring clone private eyes (John Morressy's "Except My Life3"). Several takes on time travel foreground its danger: Connie Willis's "Firewatch" follows a time traveler sent back to 1940 to snuff out fires at St. Paul's Cathedral during WWII; and in Damon Knight's "Anachron," brothers feud over a time-travel device that allows access to unlimited treasures. Several stories explore sentience: Eric Frank Russell, in "Into Your Tent I'll Creep," asks what would happen if dogs were the real masters of humanity. What if electricity were sentient and hostile? Keith Roberts provides a chilling scenario in "High Eight." What if Io was an alien machine? Michael Swanwick presents an arresting view of the Jovian moon in the powerful "The Very Pulse of the Machine." The stories from the 1980s and 1990s are particularly strong; the ones from the 1950s haven't aged well but have intriguing ideas. The historical depth is sketchy, and two stories by Stephen Baxter and Eric Brown were commissioned just for this anthology. Despite these gaps and drawbacks, the juxtaposition of old and new sheds new light on some old classics and vice versa. (June) Forecast: This anthology would be a good candidate for classroom adaptation were it not for the paucity of women authors, making it not at all representative of the field from the 1960s on. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Let other anthologists package the award-winners, the classics or stories clinging to a critical theme. What makes the Mammoth series interesting is editor Ashley's penchant for including stories that have come and gone without arousing much attention, or that deserve a second look for the light they shed on the genre as a whole. Ashley's Connie Willis's Hugo-winning time-travel tale, "Firewatch," drops a 21st-century historian into the WWII London blitz. This resonates beautifully with Kim Stanley Robinson's "Vinland the Dream," in which a mere discussion of the meaning of history changes the perceptions of archaeologists exposing a century-old hoax. "A Death in the House, a sentimental pastoral alien visitation story by Clifford Simak reflects ironically on the two original alien encounter stories, Eric Brown's "Ulla, Ulla," a postmodern glance backward on H.G. Wells's War of the Worlds, and Stephen Baxter's "Refugium," a Malenfant family adventure in which unseen aliens create a cosmic refuge for intelligent life. Not all the selections work so well. When compared with "A Ticket to Tranai," Robert Sheckley's tiresome dystopian farce, Philip K. Dick's "The Exit Door Leads In," an absurdist take on a far-future college education (originally published in the Rolling Stone College Papers), seems a slap-dash exercise in campy surrealism. Among the oldies that haven't aged well: "Shards," Brian Aldiss's heavy-handed 1962 flirtation with stylized prose that anticipated the New Wave of the 1970s. Obscurantists will enjoy Frank Lillie Pollock's end-of-it-all account in "Finis" and Mark Clifton's unabashedly despairing "What Have I Done?" Mammoth Book of Somewhat Obscure Stories by Writers WhoAre Famous for Other Works, or Who Are Not as Celebrated As The Editor Thinks They Should Be.
Mike Ashley is a prolific editor. His most recent successes include The Mammoth Book of Locked Room Mysteries, The Mammoth Book of Sword and Honour, and also Mammoth Book of Comic Fantasy and The Mammoth Book of Arthurian Legend. His books for Robinson have been widely translated and have sold over a million copies worldwide. He lives in Kent.