NESFA Members' Reviews


edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden

Tor, ISBN 0-312-86215-6, 1996, 316pp, US$13.95

A book review by Evelyn C. Leeper

Copyright 1997 Evelyn C. Leeper

Two Hugo nominees out of twelve stories--not a bad percentage for an original anthology. (And this anthology undoubtedly contributed to Nielsen Hayden's own Hugo nomination as Best Professional Editor.) And it's not a theme anthology. This is not "Science Fiction Stories Set in the Interior of Stars" or "Fantasy Stories About Light." It's just good science fiction and fantasy. Everyone seems to be comparing this to such series as Terry Carr's "Universe" or Damon Knight's "Orbit," but in my opinion it's too soon to tell. I will say that this is a very auspicious start.

The first story in STARLIGHT 1 is "The Dead" by Michael Swanwick; the last is "The Cost to Be Wise" by Maureen McHugh. Traditional anthology wisdom is to start with your strongest story, and end with your second strongest. Nielsen Hayden is certainly in agreement with the readers here--these were the two stories nominated for the Hugo Award. But don't ignore the stories in the middle, or you'll miss some excellent works.

For example, "Mengele's Jew" by Carter Scholz is a unique combination of quantum mechanics and the Holocaust. "The Weighing of Ayre" by Gregory Feeley is a science fiction story of the seventeenth century. Jane Yolen has "Sister Emily's Lightship," the second "Emily- Dickinson-and-the-space-aliens" story of the year (and in my opinion, the better of the two). John M. Ford's "Erase/Record/Play" is written in the rather unusual form of a playscript, and reminds me in some ways of the plays of Vaclav Havel. It is subtitled "A Drama for Print," though it wouldn't surprise me to see this performed at some point. In fact, I wouldn't object if the folks at Boskone who do theatrical performances each year decided to do this one. (Consider that a hint.)

I won't list every story, but I will recommend that you go out and get this book and discover them for yourself. I'm looking forward to the second volume.

%B      Starlight 1
%E      Patrick Nielsen Hayden
%C      New York
%D      September 1996
%I      Tor
%O      trade paperback, US$13.95
%G      ISBN 0-312-86215-6
%P      316pp
%S      Starlight
%V      1

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