NESFA Members' Reviews

coverStar Light 2

by Patrick Nielsen Hayden

A book review by Mark L. Olson

Tor, 1998, 319 pp. , $24.95

Patrick Nielsen Hayden has created a series of superb original SF -- it's just a pity that it's two or more years between volumes. Volume Two is every bit as good as Volume One was.

My favorite was Ted Chiang's "Story of Your Life" which does the idea that really understanding a truly alien way of thinking might let a human see things we simply can't, better than it's ever been done. (Chiang is a marvel: I think this is only his fourth or fifth story and he's won a Hugo and a Campbell.)

Robert Charles Wilson's "Divided by Infinity" has an interesting gimmick and some neat fannish references, while Dave Langford's "A Game of Consequences" plays one of his favorite themes again, better than ever. (Those three were on my Hugo nominations ballot.)

A couple of others, such as Raphael Carter's, were interesting, but several others, while well-written, weren't SF at all as far as I can tell.

For example, "Mrs. Mabb" by Susanna Clarke was a story about hallucinations where for no apparent reason (except, perhaps to get it into Starlight 2) the author writes, in effect, "and they were all real." (Sort of the opposite of "and he woke up and it was all a dream.") Not a bad story you understand -- none of them are bad stories- - but not SF.

"Snow" by Geoffrey A. Landis is another oddity that just squeaks in as SF by the last 12 lines. Somehow, what he did made the story SF for me while Clarke's twist seemed a cheat. I can't say why, precisely. In my opinion this is one of the best stories in the book, but it's just barely SF.

Starlight 2 is a superb book filled with good reading and several pieces of very good SF.

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