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Swift Thoughts
George Zebrowski
Golden Gryphon Press, 311 pages

Swift Thoughts
George Zebrowski
George Zebrowski was born in Austria in 1945 to Polish parents displaced by the upheavals surrounding WWII. After Austria, his parents moved to Italy, then to England and to America. Living in New York City, he had his first short story published in a fan magazine. He began dreaming up a complicated saga dealing with mobile habitats carved out of asteroids. In 1969, he sold his first story, "The Water Sculptor," to a paperback anthology. From 1970 on, he made his living as a writer and editor, putting together anthologies and writing novels such as The Omega Point and Macrolife.

ISFDB Bibliography
George Zebrowski Tribute Site

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

Get your thinking caps on. George Zebrowski's Swift Thoughts is full of science fiction stories that will leave you questioning both yourself and the world around you. And since this is SF, it will leave you wondering just what it is that the future holds for us.

There is also fun to be had. "The Word Sweep" leads off the collection with a metaphorical world in which spoken words have become actual objects, leaving city streets cluttered with piles of spoken clutter. Another fun one is "Stooges", which, in a manner very reminiscent of Howard Waldrop at his best, manages to connect Curly Howard with a strange tale of alien contact. It's a treat for Three Stooges fans everywhere.

Things get more serious with the title story. Here we find a theme that emerges in several of these stories, that in order to take a step forward, it could be necessary not to remember, but to actually abandon the past. The protagonist in "Swift Thoughts" is left longing for a new type of existence in the realm of "swift thought." He has experienced it, but can not remember what it was like when returned to normal human existence. He is left to contemplate the different states of existence, with the realisation that "contentment seems impossible... because we can always see beyond wherever we may stand."

Another example is "Sacred Fire", where a young man breaks with his father in order to find a new life, and concludes "We who are changing have known the past... We will not remember". Sometimes in order to change, you must give up what you once had.

Two other stories are especially worth highlighting. "Godel's Doom" features an experiment designed to test the truth of Godel's Theorem. The implications are as much philosophical as they are scientific, and the story builds to an ending which, in its implication, carries much the same force as Clarke's "The Nine Billion Names of God". "Lenin in Odessa" is an alternate history story with an interesting twist. Familiar figures, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, and master spy Sidney Reilly engage in a Russian revolution whose details are different but whose outcome is very much like history as it actually happened. It's the kind of story for which the phrase "tour de force" was first coined.

The stories in Swift Thoughts are couched in terms of hard science fiction. There are aliens and future societies and physics experiments and people who are trying to find their way in a strange reality. But lying at the heart of these stories is not a science problem, or a piece of technological gimmickry. The problems and questions posed to the characters and the reader are philosophical. How do we try to understand the world we live in, do science and mathematics give us a true depiction of reality? What would it take, and what would it be like to actually achieve a higher state of consciousness? And how could you talk to anyone about it if you did? George Zebrowski is interested in these kinds of questions, and his stories use SF as a means to examine them in entertaining ways. Swift Thoughts is a collection guaranteed to leave us all thinking a little bit more.

Copyright © 2002 Greg L. Johnson

There were at least a couple of times, while reading Swift Thoughts, that reviewer Greg L. Johnson considered comparing Geoerge Zebrowski's work to that of Olaf Stapledon, but he has learned over the years that doing so almost guaruntees that no one will follow his recommendation. His reviews also appear in The New York Review of Science Fiction.

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