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Landscapes: Stories by Kevin J. Anderson
Kevin J. Anderson
Five Star, 414 pages

Landscapes: Stories by Kevin J. Anderson
Kevin J. Anderson
Kevin J. Anderson was born in 1962 and was raised in Oregon, Wisconsin. At 10, he had saved up enough money from mowing lawns and doing odd jobs that he could either buy a bicycle or a typewriter -- he chose the typewriter and has been writing ever since. He sold his first novel, Resurrection, Inc., by the time he turned 25. Anderson worked in California for 12 years as a technical writer and editor at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory where he met his wife Rebecca Moesta and his frequent co-author, Doug Beason.

Kevin J. Anderson Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Interview: Kevin J. Anderson
SF Site Interview: Kevin J. Anderson
SF Site Review: Horizon Storms
SF Site Review: A Forest of Stars
SF Site Review: Dogged Persistence
SF Site Review: Resurrection, Inc.
SF Site Review: Dune: House Atreides
SF Site Review: Lethal Exposure

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Kilian Melloy

Prolific science fiction and fantasy writer Kevin J. Anderson throws himself into realms of imagination with the fervor of a true believer, given to publishing three or four novels a year -- and, one year, reaching a personal best of eight titles.

His novels tend to run to the thick side, with the Dune novels he co-writes with Brian Herbert, son of Frank Herbert, consistently reaching the 700 page mark. But Anderson also finds time to tell shorter stories, and the new collection Landscapes brings together some two-dozen of his forays into the speculative. Landscapes is divided into three sections, "Science Fiction," "Fantasy," and "The Great Outdoors." The last section includes the title story -- which might also have fit in comfortably among the "Science Fiction" selections -- and the middle act boasts as much in the way of horror (some of it delightfully comic) as it does fantasy.

It's the "Science Fiction" section that feels most definitive, kicking off with five loosely connected stories about a company, Alternitech, and the prospectors it dispatches to parallel universes on the hunt for cultural and scientific gems that, for one reason or another, were never realized here in our own reality. While this may sound strictly high-concept, Anderson succeeds in writing nearly a half dozen distinct stories that explore an array of hues and tones in the spectrum of human experience.

Anderson's lighter side, prominently on display in the "Fantasy" department of the collection, is also well represented in the "Science Fiction" section, with the time-travel spoof "Paradox & Greenblatt, Attorneys at Law," in which a young man very nearly commits the perfect crime; the bleakly comic "Controlled Experiments," in which the line "There were rats in the soufflé again" kicks off a scorching tale in which fortune (and the roles of experimenter and lab animal) are sharply reversed, with Twilight Zone worthy results; "Carrier" blends a grim encounter with an ancient space-faring ship with gallows laughter; "TechnoMagic" takes the trope of the stranded extraterrestrial with nothing but advanced gizmos at his disposal to survive undetected in human society, and spins a frisky yarn made up of equal parts magic and levity. The "Fantasy" category is dominated by comic ventures, notably the side-splitters "Santa Claus is Coming to Get You!" -- in which jolly old St. Nick takes on an amusingly ghoulish new interpretation in the imagination of a boy convinced he's going to end up on the "naughty" side of Santa's list, and decides to take pre-emptive action to avoid a sticky end -- "Special Makeup" (insufferable actor versus gypsy curse), and the refined, semi-religious ecstasies of "Splinter," which finds a pickpocket trying to rob the wrong guy and getting pricked by a more than his own dysfunctional conscience.

Both the "Fantasy" and "Science Fiction" categories also contain their share of heart-breakers, as with the elegiac historical shanty "Sea Wind" and the powerful, wrenching "Mammoth Dawn," a prelude to a proposed novel written with Gregory Benford, in which human ingenuity resurrects extinct species -- including woolly mammoths -- only for human brutality to surface in its full destructive flower.

But Anderson is also capable of utterly ruthless horror writing, as he proves with the blood curdling "Redmond's Private Screening," a tale that all but presages the current craze for so-called "J Horror." Imagine The Ring, only scarier, and you'll have the general idea.

The last section comprises only three selections, two of them ("False Summits" and "Above the Crowds") essays about mountaineering and hiking which are interesting for their personal and anecdotal value as well for illuminating -- in the case of "False Summits" -- the link between forging a career as a writer and Anderson's passion for climbing Colorado's high peaks. The third, a sci-fi meditation on putting human travails and triumphs into perspective against the majesty of the natural world, is the moving title story, "Landscapes." It's a fitting final act, given the breadth and variety of the stories contained in the collection.

Copyright © 2006 Kilian Melloy

Kilian Melloy is the Editor at Large for wigglefish zine, and a columnist and reviewer for Hoping to make a living at this some day, for the moment Kilian is thrilled just to be talking to the creative, intriguing people he has the chance to interview for these and other web publications.

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