Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Elephants, angels, butterbeasts, and gypsies

kw: book reviews, story reviews, anthologies, science fiction

There is something about the established masters of the SF genre; their work gets harder to classify as time passes. I count Mike Resnick as one of the hardest...to my great enjoyment. His current collection, New Dreams for Old, ranges the universe of ideas much wider than most space operas range all of space. These twenty stories seem to belong to twenty different dimensions:
  • Robots Don't Cry – Love and loyalty in a completely different take on the theme of "Bicentennial Man".
  • The Elephants on Neptune – Turning the tables in a BIG way...surreal!
  • Travels With My Cats – The excitement of many fans may mean little, but the devotion of one can mean everything.
  • A Princess of Earth – If you believe as firmly as John Carter believes, can you go where he has gone? (AG motivated, see below)
  • Down Memory Lane – When your beloved is taken to another realm, how will you follow? (AG)
  • The Chinese Sandman – Outwitting competing demigods (A Mallory series story).
  • Guardian Angel – Outwitting competing gajillionaires. Holmes would have approved.
  • Old MacDonald Had a Farm – What if the cow were newly-created...and could talk?
  • The Amorous Broom – A pure romp (Mallory again).
  • Hothouse Flowers – Will we one day all outlive our minds? (AG)
  • His Award-Winning Science Fiction Story – A whack at existential absurdism.
  • For I Have Touched the Sky – The saddest story in the volume: when aspiration and ability are incompatible with one's culture.
  • Unsafe at Any Speed – Applying the laws of physics and OSHA to Superman.
  • the Pale Thin God – Just why is Jesus the highest God?
  • Mwalimu in the Squared Circle – Alternate history: what if Nyerere had taken up Idi Amin's offer of a boxing match?
  • Here's Looking at You, Kid – I must confess I didn't get it; it seems to be Rick of "Casablanca" in a "Ground Hog Day" loop.
  • The Burning Spear at Twilight – Alternate history: Kenyatta escapes from jail to lead the Kikuyu.
  • The Kemosabee – What does that word really mean...if Tonto's people really are of the "lost tribes"?
  • The 43 Antarean Dynasties – Rumination on Egyptian guides to the Valley of the Kings.
  • Keepsakes – Should we feel sorry for those who cannot feel? And should we be willing to sacrifice on their behalf?

The three stories marked AG are my code for the Aging Generation, which is my own, of which Mike is a somewhat older member. He's of retirement age, and I'm nearly there. We both have decades-old marriages. These three stories probe the feelings begotten of contemplating the future..."What if (s)he ..." The second and third of these touched me most deeply, because senile dementia (maybe Alzheimer's) runs in my family. My earliest memories are of leading my grandfather like a puppy; he couldn't find his way around the block. Much later (3+ years ago) my mother's long decline ended mercifully when inoperable cancer took her at age 81. Isn't it sad that a horror like cancer could be called "merciful"? I've nearly died of cancer myself, and it is nooooooo picnic!! Pragmatically, I suppose I'm next.

Amazingly, though every story in this volume is a sad story (and not a few are real tearjerkers, to me at least), all but one are very humorous. Being currently on a bipolar downswing, I responded most strongly to the sad side, yet I sometimes laughed; good, solid belly laughs. Laughing through the tears is the best medicine for those "over the hill but not yet under it" years. Thanks, Mike.

No comments: