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Letters KV 2

A review of Kurt Vonnegut: Letters by Kurt Vonnegut and Dan Wakefield.

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Radar Love

Gateways: An Anthology, edited by Elizabeth Anne Hull (Tor Books, $15.99, 416 pages)

“The Federation is old, and it had gotten old by minimizing change…  The emergence of humans had disturbed the Galactic balance; change had occurred, and the Federation didn’t like change.”

This is quite simply a feast for science fiction fans!   Gateways is a collection of new science fiction stories and tributes – including essays and poetry – by 18 authors in the style of Frederick Pohl.   Pohl long ago wrote a seminal creative novel called Gateway, and he was perhaps the first to predict the current day realities of personal computers and mobile phones.

Many of the tales in this collection focus on futuristic space travel and wars between alien cultures.   One of the best, and clearly unique, stories (Shadows of the Lost) is about an encounter between very early humans and Neanderthals.   It’s an unexpected twist.   Another (Chicken Little), about a future in which only billionaires can afford to extend their natural life spans, is eerily effective.

Not all of the stories work, however.   Gunn’s Tales – about spaceship travel – is one that goes on far too long and fails to arrive anywhere.   Star Trek it is not.

Frederick Pohl is now 90.   He was a contemporary of Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Kurt Vonnegut.   In his day, he won all of science fiction’s major awards (Hugos, Nebulas, the SFWA Grand Master Award) for his writing.   This worthy tribute compilation should put Pohl’s name on the radar for younger readers who are just coming to appreciate the many textures and flavors of science fiction.   Welcome!

Well recommended.

Joseph Arellano

Reprinted coutesty of San Francisco Book Review.   Gateways was released in trade paper form on July 5, 2011.   “…a must-buy for science fiction readers of all tastes,  from the traditional to the cutting-edge, from the serious to the laugh-out-loud funny.”   Amazon

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Everything Really Does Matter!

OK, so how is this for a unique plot line?   A person is born and given the special knowledge that the world will come to an end in his 36th year of life on Earth; he has the ability to tell strangers about specific and dramatic events in their pasts; and he is among a handful of the smartest people on the planet!   Whoa, it doesn’t get much better than this.

The telling of this novel by writer Ron Currie, Jr. (God Is Dead) – who was working as a short-order cook two years ago – is just as good as the premise.   Currie has a style that calls forth science-fiction, yet it is straightforward and easy to read.   What I do not agree with are the unfortunate comparisons that have been made between Currie and Kurt Vonnegut.   To read Vonnegut you must completely suspend your belief in what is real and possible – he creates a completely artificial world.   Currie’s world is quite real, except for the main character who is the only person with the potential to save a doomed planet.

Currie has other surprises up his sleeve, such as fooling you when you think you’re at what has to be the end of the tale; he suddenly reprises the story in such a unique way that you’ll wonder why no one else has thought of doing it.   I kept thinking of bands, like the Beatles, the Who and the Small Faces, who loved to close their songs with fake endings, only to come back with the real closer.

Everything Matters!  is so completely one-of-a-kind that I cannot disclose anything else about the story line without ruining it for future readers.   I’ll just say that this is absolutely the best book I’ve read since the early 70’s!   At the end, you’ll feel better about yourself and the planet…   You’ll feel proud to be a human being.Everything Matters (large)

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