REVIEW SUMMARY: Another worthwhile sampling of space opera adventure.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Anthology of 17 SF adventure stories “in the grand tradition” written after 1970.
PROS: 13 stories good or better, 5 of them standouts.
CONS: 4 stories mediocre or worse.
BOTTOM LINE: A good representation of space adventure stories between 1970 and 1998.
Gardner Dozois’ 1999 anthology, The Good New Stuff: Adventure in SF in the Grand Tradition, looks at space adventure stories written between 1970 and 1998. It is the companion to his earlier anthology from 1998, The Good Old Stuff, which samples adventure stories from 1948 and 1975. (Both books, by the way, are (were?) available from the Science Fiction Book Club as The Good Stuff. Biblioholic that I am, I also have a copy of that hardback omnibus in addition to the individual paperbacks, a disorder I thinly rationalize by having the ability to read one at home and one on my lunch hour without having to carry a book back and forth. [Hangs head in shame.])
The stories in The Good New Stuff do an admirable job at entertaining, though there were some weaker stories. When the stories worked, though, they worked quite well. Standout stories include “The Way of Cross and Dragon” by George R. R. Martin, “Swarm” by Bruce Sterling, “Poles Apart” by G. David Nordley, “Cilia-of-Gold” by Stephen Baxter and “Escape Route” by Peter F. Hamilton. I note here without comment (since I can draw no conclusion from it) that a larger-than-expected number of stories had some economic element to them.
In the introduction to The Good New Stuff, Dozois uses the term adventure synonymously with space opera. Thus, I cannot help but compare his two anthologies to the more recent (2006) collection of space opera, The Space Opera Renaissance edited by David G. Hartwell & Kathryn Cramer. While the Hartwell/Cramer anthology seemed more concerned with critical analyses and all the myriad definitions of space opera (including some forays into military sf), the Dozois books seem to (mostly) center on stories of adventure. However, the inclusion of some stories here also seemed questionable, like “The Blind Minotaur” which came across more like a literary fantasy than adventure story. To be sure, both anthologies succeed at their own goals and there is only one overlapping story between them (Hamilton’s “Escape Route”).
Reviewlettes of the stories follow.
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