Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
Far Frontiers
edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Larry Segriff
DAW Books, 310 pages


Bob Warner
Far Frontiers
Martin H. Greenberg
Martin H. Greenberg is the most prolific anthologist in publishing history. He has won the Milford Award for Lifetime Achievement in Science Fiction Editing and was Editor Guest of Honour at the 1992 World Science Fiction Convention. He lives in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

ISFDB Bibliography
Martin H. Greenberg anthologies - 1st of 4 pages

Larry Segriff
Larry Segriff is the editor of a number of anthologies and the author of The Four Magics and Spacer Dreams.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Battle Magic

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

Advertisement
I am one of those who cherish short SF, but I have an ambivalent view of the bulk of the themed anthologies which publish original short stories these days. On the one hand, they provide more outlets for new short stories, and that is good. On the other hand, their contents are so often disappointing, and that is not so good. I've come to believe that one of the problems is the presence of a theme. This seems to elicit stories written to order, rather than written because they are the best stories the authors could write just at that time. More specifically, many of the stories seem not interested in telling a story, but rather in making a point, and often they proceed directly to that point, without suspense or subtlety or surprise. For that reason, I think, I've tended over time to prefer general subject anthologies.

The theme uniting the stories in Far Frontiers is a broad one. Indeed, one could argue that it is central to a lot of SF. This theme is simply the exploration of new frontiers: frontiers in space, or in knowledge, or in our characters. Thus I had some hopes for this anthology. Unfortunately, for the most part the stories included here share the same problems as most of the stories in many of theme anthologies I've seen. With a few exceptions, they simply aren't very inspired.

There is a lot to like about the opening story, "Traces," by Katherine M. Massie-Ferch. For one, it's rather long, at over 13,000 words, which is refreshing in itself relative to the usual parade of 5,000 word stories I see in so many anthologies. (In fact, this book includes four novelettes -- an unusually high total for a themed original anthology of late.) More importantly, the central idea is fairly intriguing: how might archaeologists recognize the traces of past archaeologists on alien planets. That is, the previous visitors. Unfortunately, the conflict in this story was against rather cartoonish religious zealots, convinced that God only created one intelligent species, Man. The viewpoint character is a woman whose husband was imprisoned for challenging this view, and she is trying to balance her real beliefs against her fears for her child's future. I liked much of the story, and I liked the complex presentation of that character's position, but I was unconvinced by the evilness of her opponents. Too black and white.

The next-longest story is also pretty good, and it closes the book. This is Robin Wayne Bailey's "Angel on the Outward Side." It's a fast-moving, almost old-fashioned, adventure story about a hardened war veteran, now a freelance agent, with a Shakespeare-quoting alien partner. He meets an old friend, a woman who has been through as much as he has, and who is trying to find out what happened to her sister, whose spaceship has crashed under mysterious circumstances. It's good fun -- well-written, enjoyable space opera. I think I detected a dark theme, which frankly I thought a bit hokey, but that didn't ruin a good story.

There are some other nice stories here. Terry D. England's "Out of the Cradle" suggests that if the future involves life in permanent virtual reality, finding a true frontier may be very important. He presents a character who refuses to "cross over" to the VR life, until a real frontier becomes available. This story really worked thematically. Lawrence Watt-Evans' "The Last Bastion" presents the last fragments of "individual" humans fleeing a hive mind to the edge of the galaxy. But the hive mind has a surprise for them. The rather Vingean concepts make the story thought-provoking. And I was happy to see a new short story from Andre Norton, reading very much like the Norton of the 50s. "Set in Stone" has an alien enslaved by evil human descendants, who encounters some very Nortonian "Old Ones." Though, again, while I liked the story, the resolution was weak. Finally, "Forgotten" by Peter Schweighofer presents an old man at a future "nursing home" of sorts, in the atmosphere of a gas giant. The setting is unimportant, though: the frontier he faces is death. I was a bit unconvinced by the SF element of the story, but the man's predicament was moving.

The rest of the book is, for the most part, competently done, but quite uninspired. And so often the stories aren't stories, and also aren't really about people. They really seem written to order. All in all, a disappointing collection.

Copyright © 2000 Rich Horton

Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at http://www.sff.net/people/richard.horton.


SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or anything else worth mentioning, please send it to editor@sfsite.com.
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide