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edited by Gardner Dozois and Jonathan Strahan

ISBN: 9780732282943

EOS (2007)

ISBN: 9780732282943

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely (this review was first published in January 2008)

I am not a huge fan of science fiction. Let’s get this out right at the start. The reason I don’t often like it is because I’ve found that science fiction can easily become bogged down in jargon and, well, science, at the expense of engaging characters and comprehensible plot, both of which are very important to me. Lately however, I have found myself absorbed by a number of science fiction books and stories that have flat out appealed to me, and a great percentage of stories in The New Space Opera certainly met the high bar.

In The New Space Opera, two highly regarded editors, Gardner Dozois and local boy Jonathan Strahan, have drawn together a deeply satisfying collection of stories that meet the space opera criteria. As laid out in the introduction to the book, space opera is “…romantic adventure set in space and told on a grand scale.” Impressively, the majority of the stories in the collection presented believable possible futures combined with realistic and finely drawn characters participating in action-packed and emotion-charged exploits that did not overwhelm this reader with technobabble or bog her down in science. To me, the lay reader of science fiction, the highly refined craftsmanship of the stories – drawing these worlds and characters with such elegance and style but not failing to entertain and provoke – meant that I devoured each story and raced on to the next, often pausing to digest the depth of theme and message, but always keen to taste the next piece. Equally powerful was the ability of each author to write in such a way that the depth and breadth of story contained in the word length was such that most authors could not develop or contain in even a full length novel. I will not attempt to itemize the contents individually, but will remark on a few stories that stood out to me, for various reasons. Read the rest of this entry »

Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois (eds.)

Bloomsbury (2007)

ISBN: 9780747590569

Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce (this review was first published in January 2008)

Anthologies, in my experience, are fraught experiences. Sometimes the theme just works, and completely different stories sit quite comfortably together. Sometimes the theme feels forced, and it’s almost like a bunch of authors thought, “There’s a new anthology being put together … if I tweak this story like that, it will probably work.” And then, of course, there’s the anthologies where all of the stories are simply dreadful.

Dark Alchemy is not dreadful. There are a number of absolutely outstanding stories in it. The theme – the idea of the wizard – generally works. There were, though, some stories that I found a bit on the average side, that I thought let the team down overall. The Wizard, as the editors point out in their introduction, is a motif found in pretty much all cultures across the span of history. Some of the wizards in this collection are instantly recognisable – you’ve read or seen their story before, which is not to say that the story as presented here is boring. Some of the authors have taken a more sideways slant on the topic, with mixed results. And the cover is lovely – silver and grey, with an imposing castle on the front complete with bats, and a cobweb too. Not necessarily representative of all the stories, but attractive anyway. Read the rest of this entry »

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