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Alien Crimes
edited by Mike Resnick
Science Ficton Book Club, 487 pages

Alien Crimes
Mike Resnick
Mike Resnick sold his first book in 1962 and went on to sell more than 200 novels, 300 short stories and 2,000 articles, almost all of them under pseudonyms. He turned to SF with the sale of The Soul Eater, his first under his own name. Since 1989, Mike has won Hugo Awards (for Kirinyaga; The Manamouki; Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge; The 43 Antarean Dynasties; Travels With My Cats) and a Nebula Award (for Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge).

Mike Resnick Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Starship: Pirate
SF Site Review: Starship: Mutiny
SF Site Review: Dragon America
SF Site Review: Men Writing Science Fiction As Women, Women Writing Science Fiction As Men and New Voices in Science Fiction
SF Site Review: A Hunger in the Soul

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Peter D. Tillman

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This latest entry in the Science Fiction Book Club's original anthology series is a follow-up to Mike Resnick's Down These Dark Spaceways (2005), a volume of hard-boiled SF detective stories. Resnick's mandate this time was similar, but avoid the hard-boiled stuff.

Pat Cadigan's "The Dread" opens the book. It's a classic police procedural that turns into something of a locked room mystery, with a surprising and effective twist ending. Cadigan draws a convincing portrait of a policewoman on the verge of a breakdown. I liked it, and I bet you will too.

The highlight of Alien Crimes is Gregory Benford's "Dark Heaven," an elegant tribute to the Travis McGee mysteries, set in Benford's native Alabama. This atmospheric Gulf Coast pastoral features the obligatory world weary detective in a near future police procedural that takes a very odd turn. Alien amphibians from Centaurus have established a coastal enclave near Mobile. Detective Mckenna is investigating an odd series of drowning homicides.... A strong story, one of Benford's best ever. It may turn out to be part of a novel. I hope so.

Walter Jon Williams "Womb of Every World" is a long novella (140+ pages), an extract from his upcoming novel Implied Spaces (to be published in mid-2008). This one starts with sword play on a desert caravan in a medieval fantasy world, then veers into Aristoian high-tech wizardry. Some Very Cool stuff happens.... As editor Resnick notes, "whatever you think it is, it's almost certainly not." There's no real resolution here, a hazard of novel extracts, but the novel looks to be well worth waiting for. Williams' many fans will appreciate the preview -- and be impatient to read the book.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch ventures into (darker than) Zenna Henderson territory in her effective and atmospheric two track story "The End of the World." In the present, small town detective Becca Keller is presented with an old mass grave at her former boyfriend's big resort-restoration project in the Oregon desert. The second, past track relates the unhappy fate of the shipwrecked alien visitors, when the town and resort were new. Rusch is an underrated writer, working at the peak of her powers here. Recommended.

Harry Turtledove's "Hoxbomb" is another good police procedural, this one set on Lacanth, a colony world shared with the Snarre't, a furry race of biotech geniuses. Humans and Snarre't get along, after a fashion, and trade alien biotech goodies for human computers and vehicles. Lacanth's peace is broken by the birth of a severely deformed human infant, clearly the victim of a Snarre't hoxbomb, a genetic scrambler weapon. The case is solved by two detectives, one from each race's police force. The story is nicely done, but the ending falls a bit flat, I thought.

Mike Resnick's " A Locked Planet Mystery" is the weakest story in the book,and a poster child for the dangers of an editor buying his own work. Plus it's basically a hardboiled PI tale, contrary to the book's premise. Readable but slight.

Overall, a fine original anthology, with only one weak story. Recommended.

Alien Crimes is available only from the Science Fiction Book Club.

Copyright © 2007 Peter D. Tillman

Pete Tillman has been reading SF for better than 40 years now. He reviews SF -- and other books -- for Amazon, Infinity-Plus, SF Site, and others. He's a mineral exploration geologist based in Arizona. Google "Peter D. Tillman" +review for many more of Pete's reviews.


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