REVIEW: Space Soldiers edited by Dann & Dozois

REVIEW SUMMARY: Good sampling of military sf.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Anthology of nine military SF stories.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Some excellent stories.

CONS: 1 stinker.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended if you like military science fiction.


Space Soldiers is the third book that I’ve read, after Future War and Armageddons, out of the many co-edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois. As with most anthologies, there’s good and bad. Fortunately, in this anthology, the good outweighed the bad. Standout stories in this anthology come from Fritz Leiber, Alastair Reynolds and Stephen Baxter. Reynolds is fast becoming a favorite author of mine.

STORIES IN THIS ANTHOLOGY:

  1. The Gardens of Saturn by Paul J. McCauley [1998 novelette] (Rating: 2/5) [Read 06/06/04 – 06/07/04]
    • Synopsis: Baker, an ex-military man (owned by the commune to whom he belongs) is hired by an old platoon-mate (and ex-lover) in a money-making scheme on one of Saturn’s moons involving a rich magnate and her disgusting disowned son.
    • Review: A weak start for this book. The story was OK but slow moving and slow to read. And it hardly classifies as military SF just because the two main characters are ex-soldiers. Other than that, there is nothing military about the story.
  2. Soldier’s Home by William Barton [1999 novelette] (Rating: 4/5) [Read 06/07/04]
    • Synopsis: A lone, war-weary soldier named Ashe seeks peace at a long-abandoned space habitat to find it populated by not-so-peaceful mechanical tool throwaways. The silvergirls, female robots that were once used as housemaids, seek to control the habitat by destroying all of the other mechs.
    • Review: Cool, engrossing story with lots of imagination and sense of wonder. I really liked the descriptions of the cylindrical habitat and all the different mechanical creatures the soldier encountered. The story is told in the first-person with a generous collection of flashback episodes that flesh out Ashe’s life and the war with the starfish creatures.
  3. Legacies [Legacies series] by Tom Purdom [1994 novelette] (Rating: 1/5) [Read 06/09/04]
    • Synopsis: A story about a boy who loses a parent in a space battle or, more accurately, about his therapist’s efforts to administer an “ego-strengthening emotional modification” procedure to psychologically save the boy.
    • Review: An interesting idea (and a strong start) but not meaty enough to carry it for forty pages. There was also way too much psychological analysis and theory for my tastes. You know what makes people in space crazy? Stories with little or no action.
  4. Moon Duel by Fritz Leiber [1965 short story] (Rating: 5/5) [Read 06/11/04]
    • Synopsis: A gunfight/chase sequence between a human and an alien on the moon.
    • Review: Excellent story from its gruesome initial scene to a satisfying conclusion. At first the human fires at the alien and misses. A manhunt occurs where the human astronaut escapes in a deep crevice, slowly climbing to the surface via interior “bubbles” in the rock. He eventually establishes a mathematical Morse code with the alien, realizing that neither foe is really hostile. Then, the missed shots made earlier by the human, now having orbited the moon, land near the alien, causing a harsh sudden end to their budding friendship.
  5. Savior by Robert Reed [1998 short story] (Rating: 3/5) [Read 06/12/04]
    • Synopsis: A boy goes hunting with his grandfather where he learns the truth about why his grandfather is a war hero. The grandfather saved the Earth from mass flooding caused by the actions of aliens on a spaceship hovering over the Earth.
    • Review: Interesting story. The “big mystery” of the hero’s war crime is told through flashbacks and is revealed near story’s end.
  6. Galactic North by Alastair Reynolds [1999 novelette] (Rating: 4.5/5) [Read 06/15/04]
    • Synopsis: A spaceship carrying 20,000 colonists in reefersleep is attacked by pirates who kill most of the colonists and take the others hostage. Captain Irravel Veda vows revenge and, together with an alien Conjoiner and a betrayed pirate, tracks down the assailant through millennia. Along the way, they discover a galactic plague that threatens the galaxy.
    • Review: Another excellent story by Reynolds, this one also set in the Revelation Space universe. Making appearances are the Conjoiners, the Pattern Jugglers and the planet Yellowstone. The first half of the story (when Captain Veda was driven by revenge and when there were lots of plot twists) was better paced than the second half (the time skips were much larger and the revenge took a back seat to the new galactic threat), but even so, it still doesn’t get much better than this.
  7. Masque of the Red Shift [Berserker] by Fred Saberhagen [1965 short story] (Rating: 3/5) [Read 06/16/04]
    • Synopsis: Set in Saberhagen’s Berserker universe (the Berserker’s are alien-built killing machines). The Berserker’s seek proof of human hero Johann Karlson’s death after their defeat at the Stone Place. So one of them, disguised as a human prisoner, forces a ship to the palace of Felipe Nogara (Karlson’s brother), where Karlson’s body is laid out.
    • Review: An OK story. It’s been a while since I read any berserker stories. I did recognize the name of the cryogenically frozen Johann Karlson though.
  8. Time Piece by Joe Haldeman [1970 short story] (Rating: 3/5) [Read 06/19/04]
    • Synopsis: A soldier is assigned a reconnaissance mission on one of the enemy “shrimp” worlds and ruminates about the effects of FTL travel.
    • Review: Good story, but kind of standard.
  9. On the Orion Line [Xeelee] by Stephen Baxter [2000 novelette] (Rating: 5/5) [Read 06/19/04]
    • Synopsis: A ship sets out to gather information about the Ghosts, the huge, mirrored, teardrop-shaped alien beings who are prohibiting human expansion from the Orion arm of the galaxy. The story is told through the eyes of 15 year old Chase, who gets a quick lesson in military tactics. His ship is quickly destroyed as it crosses the latticework they have constructed around a sun 6,00 light years from Earth. With only a few survivors, Chase and company must discover a weakness of the Ghosts and escape with the vital information.
    • Review: Excellent story filled with hard science, sense of wonder and great characters. The Ghosts tinker with the laws of physics as a hobby. They manage to increase the speed of light which, thanks to the “fine structure constant”, reduces the force of attraction between molecules, rendering the ship inoperable and making the humans more brittle. Cool stuff!

4 thoughts on “REVIEW: Space Soldiers edited by Dann & Dozois”

  1. Ace Books

    Don’t know how much, but selling for $0.42 an Amazon, not new.

    ASIN/ISBN 0441008240

    Or, you could just ask John to bring it with him on his upcoming trip to NY and drop it off with you! He doesn’t mind lending out books for long periods of time, just ask about the Encyclipedia of SF that is in my office….

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