BOOK REVIEW: Science Fiction Volume 1, by Kevin J. Anderson

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Publisher: WordFire Press

Series: Selected Stories: Science Fiction (#1)

Genre: Various

Pages: 369

Publication Date: 14/08/18

Verdict: 4.75/5

 

A collection of short stories and novellas from over forty years of Anderson’s writing.

Kevin J. Anderson is one of the most prolific writers in modern science fiction. With well over a hundred books spanning DuneStar WarsThe X-Files, and original works, he’s an author who could keep even the most determined reader busy for years. I’m in the minority of SF fans who feel that his Dune novels (written with Brian Herbert) have surpassed the originals, and his original series The Saga of Seven Suns is possibly the greatest Space Opera series of the twenty-first century.

Yet despite having read and loved almost three dozen of his novels, I’ve never had the opportunity ro read much of his short fiction. As this volume shows, that was a tragic oversight on my part. Because they are just as his longer works.

Science Fiction, Volume 1 feels like the dusty old paperbacks you’d find in a second-hand bookstore. The stories skip between genres and time periods with no real order, allowing you to dive in and out at your leisure. Though if you’re anything like me, you’ll read it cover to cover. Each story is prefaced by an introduction from Anderson himself. Some of these are only a paragraph, others spread across pages, providing either an insight into the story’s genesis, or an anecdote about the time it was written. Either way, they offer a fascinating glimpse into the mind of one of SF’s hardest working writers.

One thing I would like to draw to attention is the number of collaborative works in this collection. While the Dune/Brian Herbert connection is obvious, I had not realised just how many writers Anderson had worked with over the years. Rebecca Moesta, Doug Beason, even an approved sequel to a Harlan Ellison story. As with all the best anthologies, Science FictionVolume 1 has left me with quite the long list of authors to investigate further. I can say with some certainty that I’ll be looking into Doug Beason in particular.

The variety of stories is as impressive as any multi-author anthology I’ve read. There’s grim dystopia in the form of ‘Job Qualifications’, Space Opera in ‘Log Entry’, and the haunting ‘A Whisper of Caladan Seas’, time-travel comedy in ‘Paradox & Greenblatt, Attorneys at Law’, even cyberpunk thriller in ‘Collaborators’. It seems like there’s nothing Anderson can’t turn his pen toward writing. There’s also a good balance struck between tones, with the heavier stories nicely spaced between lighter works.

There’s the odd story I’m not so keen on, of course. But that’s inevitable in any anthology of this length. But even the lesser stories are simply ‘good’ rather than ‘excellent’. And it’s hard to criticise any book of which that can be said. And this is only the first half of Anderson’s personal selection of SF stories. I can only imagine what he’s holding back for Volume 2.

 

In short, this is the perfect place to start for anyone unfamiliar with Anderson’s work. Or if you’re a long-term fan, the prime opportunity to remind yourself just how good the man’s storytelling can be.

 

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