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Cosmic Tales: Adventures in Sol System

Author: T.K.F. Weisskopf
Genre: Sci-fi
Reviewed by Tom Feller

10090403I recently attended a talk given by Dr. Jerry Pournelle, the science fiction and popular science writer. He told us about attending a conference on colonizing the moon in which the then head of NASA made the comment that he could not imagine how anyone would want to live on the moon. Pournelle said he felt like a provincial bishop who went to Rome and discovered that the Pope was an atheist. The editor and contributors to this original anthology are on Pournelle's side. In these stories and articles, they imagine what it would be like to live and work in the Solar System.

The contributors are a mix of science fiction writers who were both familiar and not familiar to me. I have read novels by Charles Sheffield, James Hogan, Jack McDevitt, Allen Steele, John Ringo, and Gregory Benford. The ones not already familiar to me were Travis Taylor, Margaret Ball, Wen Spencer, Rebecca Lickiss, and Paul Chafe. In addition to their stories, Taylor and Chafe contributed articles explaining the science behind their fiction.

Some of the stories are parts of a series. "McAndrew and THE LAW", which would be significant if only because Charles Sheffield finished it shortly before his death last year, features a character, Arthur Morton McAndrew, whom Sheffield used in many stories and considered his alter ego. A physicist, Sheffield's fiction was solidly grounded in contemporary science. "Jailhouse Rock" by James Hogan features a character he created for a series inspired by "The Saint", created by Leslie Charteris. It takes place on a future Mars that is the site of a thriving colony. Allen Steele's "High Roller" is part of his "Near Space" future history, and the setting is a casino located on the Moon.

The funniest and shortest story is "Moon Monkeys" by Wen Spencer. It concerns the attempts to import monkeys into a moon colony. The story that affected me the most was "Windows" by Jack McDevitt. It takes place entirely on Earth, but in a future in which humanity has completely withdrawn from space. "Time in Purgatory" by Rebecca Lickiss is a western transplanted to the Kuiper Belt, the region of space between Neptune's orbit and true interstellar space, and the main character is the female sheriff of a space station.

On the other hand, "Earth's First Improved Chimp Gets a Job as a Janitor" by John Ringo really does not fit the theme, although it is a good story. The two main characters are a human being and a chimpanzee. Both of them have been genetically engineered, making them social misfits, and they become friends. My only objection to its inclusion is that it has nothing to do with the future of space exploration and colonization. The only story I actually disliked was Gregory Benford's "Blood's a Rover", which I found unreadable. This surprised me, because I've liked his work in the past. It is an excerpt from a forthcoming novel that I'll remember to avoid.

However, it is rare that I like all stories in any anthology, so I feel I can recommend this book. Most of the stories are enjoyable, and the reader may actually learn something.


October 28, 2004 in Science Fiction | Permalink


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