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Space Soldiers
edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois
Ace Books, 280 pages


Lee MacLeod
Space Soldiers
Jack Dann
Jack Dann was born in Johnson City, New York, in 1945. He received his BA from Binghamton University in 1967. He has taught at Cornell University and Broome Community College, and has run an advertising agency. He still retains big business links as a director of a New York insurance company. Perhaps best known for his short fiction, which has appeared in Omni, Playboy, Asimov's SF and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Jack Dann is also a consulting editor for Tor Books. His work has resulted in him being a finalist for the Nebula Award 11 times and a World Fantasy Award finalist 3 times.

Jack Dann Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Gardner Dozois
Gardner Dozois is the editor of Asimov's SF Magazine. He is an editor of the multi-volume Magic Tales fantasy series with Jack Dann and the Isaac Asimov's... series with Sheila Williams, both from Ace Books.

Asimov's SF Magazine Website
ISFDB Bibliography

SF Site Review: Future War
SF Site Review: Nanotech

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Peter D. Tillman

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The anthology opens with Paul J. McAuley's "Gardens of Saturn" (1998, Interzone), set in his excellent Quiet War series. Two veterans of the winning side, both stranded in the Saturn system at war's end, meet by chance years later on Phoebe. Ex-Colonel Vera Jackson is desperate to escape her job as nursemaid (and worse) to a fat, rich drunk. She draws Baker, an old comrade, into a complicated extortion scheme aimed at the drunk's mother, a wealthy recluse. The scheme goes awry, in a classic tale of the "biter bit," with a deliciously nasty sting in its tail. An A-rated story, one of my two favourites in the book.

Hot new writer Alastair Reynolds' "Galactic North" (1999, Interzone; reprinted in Gardner Dozois' The Year's Best Science Fiction, Seventeenth Annual Edition) is a glorious Technicolour update of "Pirates of the Asteroids." The ramliner Hirondelle, loaded with 20,000 colonists in reefer-sleep, is boarded by a band of desperados led by Capt. Run Seven ("... you can call me Seven").  Capt. Irravel Veda has been neuro-modified to feel she's the mother to her 20,000 passengers...

Reynolds gives new meaning to the old wet-navy cliché "a stern chase is a long chase" in this gorgeously silly space-opera. Snippets:

"Why are you so interested in our weapons?" the Nestbuilder asked. "We are not aware of any wars within the chordate phylum at this epoch."

"It's a personal matter," Irravel said...

The Slug made the Nestbuilder fold its armoured, spindly limbs across its mouthparts, a gesture of displeased huffiness.

"You chordates," it said. "You're all the same."

...

"Even if it was your fault, Veda, you did it with the best of intentions. So you fucked up slightly. We all make mistakes."

"Destroying whole solar systems is just a fuck-up?"

"Hey, accidents happen..."

I love this stuff -- can you tell? An A/A+-rated story; my favourite here.

Stephen Baxter explores a strange far-future war for lebensraum "On the Orion Line" (2000, Asimov's). The Silver Ghosts, by manipulating the basic constants of space-time, have blockaded humanity within the Orion Arm; the human economy, based on continual expansion, is feeling the strain. This is a report from the front on a disastrous raid into Silver Ghost territory. It's an odd story, but made me think.

Robert Reed looks at a war hero through the eyes of his grandson in "Savior" (1998, Asimov's), as he is about to be arrested for alleged atrocities in fighting off an alien attack. A well-done "slice of life" piece.

Tom Purdom examines the special problems of a kid growing up in a dysfunctional military family in "Legacies" (1994, Asimov's). A thoughtful, well-written story.

William Barton's "Soldiers Home" (1999, Asimov's) is a moody look at the aftermath of war. Ashe, a veteran who lost his home, family and comrades to the Starfish, decides on a whim to settle in an abandoned space habitat. He wrestles with ghosts from the war, in a parallel universe to Barton's fine novel When We Were Real. "Soldiers Home" is interesting but not wholly successful.

Plus a classic Fred Saberhagen Berserker story, "Masque of the Red Shift" (1965); a 10-page précis of The Forever War, Joe Haldeman's "Time Piece" (1970); and a vigorous, if dated, Fritz Lieber story, "Moon Duel" (1965).

So it's a well-balanced and varied batch of stories. I enjoyed it, and if you're in the mood for a fast-paced (but thoughtful) look at future warfare and its consequences, I recommend Space Soldiers.

This is the latest in the long-running series of theme reprint anthologies edited by Jack Dann & Garner Dozois. All those I've seen have been interesting, providing the theme is to one's taste. Glancing through the list of titles, both Timegates and Clones were better than average, and are worth looking for.

Copyright © 2001 Peter D. Tillman

Pete Tillman has been reading SF for better than 40 years now. He reviews SF -- and other books -- for Usenet, "Under the Covers", Infinity-Plus, Dark Planet, and SF Site. He's a mineral exploration geologist based in Arizona. More of his reviews are posted at www.silcom.com/~manatee/reviewer.html#tillman .


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