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A Better World's In Birth!
Howard Waldrop
Golden Gryphon, 51 pages

A Better World's In Birth!
Howard Waldrop
Howard Waldrop received a Nebula Award for his novelette "The Ugly Chickens." Best known for his doomed heroic figure, Jetboy, in the anthology series Wild Cards, he has also written the stories collected in Howard Who?, All About Strange Monsters of the Recent Past and Night of the Cooters. He has two novels, The Texas-Israeli War (with Jake Saunders) and Them Bones.

Howard Waldrop Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Custer's Last Jump and Other Collaborations
SF Site Review: Dream Factories and Radio Pictures
SF Site Review: Going Home Again
Howard Waldrop Tribute Site

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

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If you look at the length of Howard Waldrop's signed, limited edition chapbook A Better World's in Birth! and think that you can whiz through the 38 page story in twenty-minutes, you're in for a rude awakening, or, if you adjust your reading speed to the needs of the story, a pleasant surprise, although given Waldrop's history as an author, the only surprise is that he hasn't garnered a larger fan base than he has.

This brief novelette details a world in which a Communist revolution succeeded in central Europe in the middle of the nineteenth-century. Twenty years later, as the last of the old guard are dying, there is a series of reports of visitations by the spirits of the martyrs of the revolution, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Richard Wagner. It is dropped in the lap of Comrade Rienzi to determine why these apparitions are appearing.

While Waldrop's prose is as smooth as ever, he expects his readers to bring a certain amount of historical knowledge to the chapbook, although he does provide enough details to understand the story's context within its pages and a brief afterword. Nevertheless, the reader who goes into A Better World's in Birth! without some knowledge of Wagner, Communism, and the 19th century will understand that he/she is missing something even as he/she is enjoying, and hopefully thinking about, what Waldrop has to say.

Limited to only 500 copies, A Better World's in Birth! will most likely fly under the radar of most science fiction readers until it is picked up for at least one of the best of year anthologies. For those who want to see the work Waldrop is currently writing, it can be ordered directly from Golden Gryphon Press (and order the Waldrop collaborative collection Custer's Last Jump as long as you're contacting Golden Gryphon).

The cover of the chapbook is by the usually excellent Nicholas Jainschigg, and while the back cover is a wonderful portrayal of a revolutionary scene, the front cover is reminiscent of actor Don Adams dressed as Abraham Lincoln.

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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