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Impact Parameter and other Quantum Realities
Geoffrey A. Landis
Golden Gryphon Press, 341 pages

Impact Parameter and other Quantum Realities
Geoffrey A. Landis
Geoffrey A. Landis was born in Detroit, Michigan. After going to college at MIT, he worked in the Boston area for five years. He then moved to Providence, Rhode Island to attend graduate school at Brown University. After receiving his PhD in physics, Dr. Landis worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the NASA Lewis Research Center (now renamed NASA Glenn), then worked as a NASA contractor, and finally as the senior scientist at the Ohio Aerospace Institute, before accepting his current job as a civil-service scientist in the Photovoltaics and Space Environmental Effects branch at NASA Glenn. He lives in Berea, Ohio (near Cleveland), with his wife, the science fiction writer Mary A. Turzillo.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

Until recently, I had read only one short story by Geoffrey A. Landis, "Rorvik's War," which is included in this fine collection. "Rorvik's War" is somewhat atypical in that it is a puzzle-solving story, one in which the main character needs to figure out the reality of his situation in order to survive. It's a good story, but judging from several other stories in Impact Parameter and other Quantum Realities, Landis is a rare breed in the world of SF, a writer with a strong background in science and an almost tragic sense of romance. This is hard science fiction with heart, and I need no better reason to seek out more books by Geoffrey Landis.

The best examples of this are "Ecopoeisis" -- which mixes a view of Mars that is reminiscent of the debates over terraforming in Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars series with an obsessive, doomed love story -- and "Dark Lady."  "Dark Lady," in particular, features one of the more haunting characters in recent science fiction, a physicist whose combination of extraordinary talent and tragic past has left her always on the edge of making the big discovery. Jennifer Hawke stays in your mind long after you've finished reading her story.

Landis is not a one note writer, however. "A Walk in the Sun" is an insightful story of survival on the moon, contrasting the harsh landscape of the moon with the interior landscape of the main character. "Beneath the Stars of Winter" is a story of another kind of survival and possible escape from the Soviet Gulag. If Solzhenitsyn had written One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich as a science fiction story, this would have been it.

Landis also displays a sense of humour, and while "Elemental" -- with its Connie Willis-rewrites-Heinlein's-Magic Inc flavour -- doesn't quite work (romantic comedy is a lot harder to write than it reads), "What We Really Do here At NASA" is an hilarious insider's view at life at the space agency. And if you've ever played The Sims, "Ourobos" will convince you that what you've always suspected just may be true. Who's actually in the computer, anyway?

A writer's first short story collection has always been a good way to acquaint yourself with a new science fiction writer, and Impact Parameter is a splendid example of just why that is true. These are stories where the science feels true and the characters feel real. Geoffrey A. Landis knows his physics, but he also knows that the best way to approach the world of science is through the human heart.

Copyright © 2001 Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L. Johnson lives in the simulated world of Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he contemplates the fractal nature of reality. His reviews also appear in The New York Review of Science Fiction.

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