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Gift from the Stars
      The Immortals
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James Gunn
      James Gunn
      James Gunn
BenBella Books, 154 pages
      Pocket Books, 300 pages
      BenBella Books, 195 pages

James Gunn
Born in 1923 in Kansas City, MO, James Gunn received a degree in journalism and an M.A. in English following three years in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He is now professor emeritus of English at the University of Kansas, specializing in the teaching of fiction writing and SF and director of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction. In 1971-72, James Gunn was president of the Science Fiction Writers of America. He won a Hugo Award in 1983 for Isaac Asimov: The Foundations of Science Fiction. He is the author of at least 19 books and the editor of seven more.

James Gunn Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Gift from the Stars
SF Site Review: The Immortals
SF Site Review: Gift from the Stars
SF Site Interview: James Gunn
SF Site Review: The Road To SF 5: The British Way

A review by Trent Walters

Gift from the Stars

Gift from the Stars Earlier, I reviewed the first four chapters of Gift from the Stars as they originally appeared in Analog. The January 2005 issue carried the last installment, combining two novelettes into a novella. I was not mistaken in the hope that the series would continue to escalate in its wonder, especially in "Uncreated Night" where the crew have gone in search of the mysterious aliens who sent Earth plans, hidden in an occult UFO bargain-bin book, for an advanced spaceship. They arrive at a mystery no less astounding than every other they've encountered so far:

"The little world they were approaching seemed to be studded with objects like cloves in a Christmas orange. When they got near enough they realized the studs were spaceships like their own. Or maybe not quite like their own.... [W]hat were all those other strange ships doing in orbit around the little planet...? They had thought the message was a summons to them, but maybe the invitation had been broadcast to the universe and they were only the last to respond...."
After all this build-up, I wondered how James Gunn could top himself, how he would raise the bar and still bring disparate ideas together into a thematic whole. It turns out that there's still another surprise or two left up his sleeve, but he chooses the aesthetic route with a feint within a feint. The final prize is never brought on center stage, so that the novel becomes the journey in a number of ways. Pick this one up to enjoy its pleasurably aesthetic conclusion and the revelation of mysteries along the way.

Though this is the latest novel released, it could have been reviewed last since it was written on a continuum with The Listeners. The Listeners was inspired by research by Carl Sagan who, inspired by the The Listeners (as Sagan related in a note to Gunn), wrote Contact. Gift from the Stars represents Gunn's final response to Sagan's Contact. If you've enjoyed The Listeners or Contact, you may want to read this last volume in their discussion.

One Reason To Be Named Grandmaster | Gift from the Stars | The Immortals | The Listeners | Closure

Copyright © 2007 Trent Walters

Trent Walters has unwittingly incited bloody-knuckled riots at conventions with a sweet and innocent concept like Mundane SF (blog, article printed in BSFA's Vector). His work has appeared in such villainous publications as The Golden Age SF anthology, Electric Velocipede, Full Unit Hookup, Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, among others. Examples of his poetry, fiction, and nonfiction can be found online at 3am Magazine, The Angler, EOTU, Lamination Colony, Pindledyboz, The Pittsburgh Quarterly, Vacancy, and Zone-SF. Forthcoming are a short fiction piece in Grendelsong and, from Morpo Press, a poetry chapbook called Learning the Ropes. Starting in the second issue of 2007, he will be the poetry editor of Abyss and Apex.

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