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American Beauty
Allen Steele
Five Star, 242 pages

American Beauty
Allen Steele
Allen M. Steele's first published SF was his story "Live from the Mars Hotel," published in Asimov's Science Fiction in 1988. Since then his novels and collections have included Orbital Decay, Clarke County, Space, Lunar Descent, Labyrinth of Night, Rude Astronauts, The Jericho Iteration, The Tranquillity Alternative and All-American Alien Boy. Steele, a resident of St. Louis, MO, received both the 1996 Hugo Award and the 1996 Science Fiction Weekly Reader Appreciation Award for his novella "The Death of Captain Future," which appeared in Asimov's in June 1995.

Allen Steele Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Coyote
SF Site Review: Oceanspace
SF Site Review: A King of Infinite Space
SF Site Review: A King of Infinite Space
SF Site Interview: Allen Steele (part 1)
SF Site Interview: Allen Steele (part 2)

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

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Allen Steele demonstrates his versatility in the collection American Beauty. Not only does he provide the reader with hard science fiction stories, but he also incorporates humor in many of the stories, beginning with the Hugo-nominated "Agape Among the Robots" and continuing (if sporadically) through "Tom Swift and His Humongous Mechanical Dude."

Early in his career, Steele was frequently compared to Robert A. Heinlein, and even with these stories written in the last seven years, Steele continues to demonstrate the influence of science fiction from the 50s and 60s on his own writing. While this may be most obvious in his tribute to the Tom Swift stories of Victor Appleton, it also shows up in his nostalgic, if chaotic, alternate history "Green Acres," and "Warning, Warning," which draws from the television series Lost in Space.

Steele pays tribute to Philip José Farmer in "Graceland," which was originally published in one of the Riverworld anthologies and links Steele's interest in music to Farmer's invention. Similarly, Isaac Asimov's work is singled out in "Agape Among the Robots," which is a reconsideration of Asimov's three laws. Ironically, Steele chooses to write his tale as a love story, a style which consistently eluded Asimov, but which Steele handles quite well.

Not content to include only a single robot story, American Beauty also includes "Jake and the Enemy," a tale of the inevitable battle between robots and man's best friend. Steele handles the story with customary humor while still addressing issues of technological integration.

"Green Acres" is not the only alternative history to appear in the pages of American Beauty. Steele also includes "A Walk Across Mars," which is linked to his novel Tranquillity Alternative and several other short stories. In this story, Steele details the first Martian mission and its rather strange interpersonal relationships.

"Missing Time" was written for a non-SF publication and is the earliest piece in the collection. A story of urban decay and transformation, it presents an interesting, and clever, take on the problems facing cities. Similarly, "The Fine Art of Watching" was not originally intended for science fiction publications, although when Steele gave up on the novel of which it was forming a part, he turned it into a successful science fiction thriller.

Copyright © 2003 Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is a four-time Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer and the editor of the anthologies Wondrous Beginnings, Magical Beginnings, and Horrible Beginnings (DAW Books, January, February and March, 2003). In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is heavily involved in convention running and publishes the fanzine Argentus.


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