Fiction Reviews

New Legends

(1996) Greg Bear (ed), Legend, 5.99, pbk, 419pp. ISBN 0 09 931901 2


Bear is another of the US East coast brigade (Seattle in this case) of SF writers who has established a firm reputation as a writer of highly entertaining hard SF. The latter makes him a worthy choice to edit a collection of the best of contemporary SF and Bear has not disappointed in doing an above-average job.

From the science-loving SF perspective, this collection has got four things going for it. First, (nearly) all the stories are good and a couple are brilliant masterpieces. In fact this book is an inside-out sandwich. The first and last stories are so substantial they deserve to become classics. The first (and here I have to admit bias as an environmental scientist) is a tale that many environmentalists have secretly, and ashamedly wondered about, concerns how to get round our planet's current demographic problems. The last is a Greg Egan first contact short story that, typical of Egan, concentrates enough for a novella into a short story making it an extremely rich read. It is also incredibly hard SF packed with current science philosophy showing (as if we needed to be told) that Egan can turn out cutting edge SF shorts as well as novels. The other stories are the bread, but not your common garden bread rather your freshly-baked, wholemeal granary variety that almost melts in your mouth. The second thing going for this collection, you will have gathered from the above, is that not all the authors are American -- for instance we have Egan from Australia and Paul McAuley from Great Britain. Third, the author has given thought to compiling the collection, and has provided a good introduction as well as additional comments at the start of each story. Fourth, included is a thought-provoking non-fiction piece on science and SF and global politics (the latter about which I am uncomfortable (cf. Arthur Clarke's biography Odyssey)). New Legends is a must for those whose book collection represents the genre's development and those whose long-journey reading has to be something they will wish to keep. Let us hope that Bear can maintain his discriminating standards and favour us with more new legends.

Jonathan Cowie

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