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Galileo's Children
edited by Gardner Dozois
Pyr, 343 pages

Galileo's Children
Gardner Dozois
Gardner Dozois is the editor of Asimov's Science Fiction magazine and the annual anthology series The Year's Best Science Fiction, as well as many other anthologies. He has won more than 10 Hugo Awards as the year's best editor, and 2 Nebula Awards for his own short fiction. His short fiction appears in Geodesic Dreams: The Best Short Fiction of Gardner Dozois. He is the author or editor of better than 70 books, including the anthologies The Good Old Stuff and The Good New Stuff. He's also edited such theme anthologies as Dinosaurs! and Dog Tales!. He lives in Philadelphia.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Strangers
SF Site Review: Future Sports
SF Site Review: The Year's Best Science Fiction, Eighteenth Annual Collection
SF Site Review: Space Soldiers
SF Site Review: The Year's Best Science Fiction: 17th Annual Collection
SF Site Review: Isaac Asimov's Solar System
SF Site Review: Isaac Asimov's Werewolves
SF Site Review: Future War
SF Site Review: The Good Old Stuff
SF Site Review: Nanotech
SF Site Review: Isaac Asimov's Detectives
SF Site Review: Roads Not Taken: Tales of Alternate History
SF Site Review: The Year's Best Science Fiction: Fifteenth Annual Collection

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Mario Guslandi

Theme anthologies are a challenge for fiction editors. If they seek original material they have to rely upon the authors' ability to properly cope with the subject, whereas if it's a reprint anthology they need a good memory and an extensive knowledge of the literature addressing that particular issue. No problems there for an experienced editor/writer such as Gardner Dozois, even when the topic (science vs. superstition), although quite intriguing, is far from being a simple one.

Truth to tell, Dozois has taken no chances, selecting the contributors to this volume among the most celebrated SF writers, worshipped icons so famous as to intimidate any reviewer. Thus, who would dare to criticize, minimize, make exceptions? I do, because this is my assignment. Don't get me wrong: the book is very good and most of the stories are top-notch fiction, but not everything is flawless.

Ursula K. Le Guin starts the ball with "The Stars Below," the sad, poignant story of an astronomer forced to hide and live in the dark underworld of the caves and tunnels belonging to and old mine.

Keith Roberts' "The Will of God" is a truly extraordinary tale where an inventor, obsessed with the building of a machine able to transfer the sound (an ante-litteram phone) gradually loses contact with a world dominated by the Inquisition. The extremely elegant prose, the skilled storytelling and the ability to elicit the sense of the frailty of the human condition all confirm the incredible talent of a writer whose work should be reprinted and rediscovered.

With "The Way of Cross and Dragon," George R.R. Martin contributes an interesting cross between a religious thriller and a SF tale, managing to be entertaining and thought-provoking at the same time.

"The Pope of the Chimps" by Robert Silverberg is an offbeat story where a scientific experiment carried out on the chimpanzees' minds gets sour when the animals have to face the reality of death and the mystery of God's existence.

By contrast Edgar Pangborn's "The World Is a Sphere" is a mediocre political pastiche set in an undetermined future, that doesn't seem to fit in with the anthology's general quality.

"Written in Blood" by Chris Lawson appears to be a very topical story, depicting a Muslin man who finds his death after having the text of Qur'an inserted into the genetic code of his white blood cells.

In Brendan DuBois' "Falling Star," ignorance and superstition have taken possession of the world in a grim future following the collapse of the global computer system, while an aged astronaut pays his dues to his dream of reaching the stars. A moving, great story full of lyricism and desolation.

James Alan Gardner ("Three Hearings On the Existence of Snakes In Human Bloodstream") provides just an amusing variation on the subject of the perpetual conflict between science and religion, while Arthur C. Clarke with "The Star" supplies a classy, short SF piece showing how fragile our faith is when facing the mysteries of the universe.

By far the weakest story in the volume, "The Last Homosexual" by Paul Park hints at the possibility that psychological disorders can be transmitted in the same way as viruses do. Equally forgettable is James Tiptree Jr's "The Man Who Walked Home," a strictly SF piece not up to the author's reputation, about the annual reappearance of a man travelling in time.

Mike Resnick's "When the Old Gods Die" is an agreeable instalment in the Kirinyaga series, effectively portraying the everlasting struggle between science and superstition, taking place in a Utopian world.

"Oracle" by Greg Egan is a long piece on the inability to accept what we cannot understand, even when it's only a scientific truth so advanced that we are too ignorant to grasp it. Unfortunately a load of scientific and moral lucubrations makes the story too strained to qualify as good fiction.

In spite of some questionable choices, Galileo's Children remains a captivating compilation of compelling stories addressing an unusual, refreshing subject.

Copyright © 2005 by Mario Guslandi

Mario Guslandi lives in Milan, Italy, and is a long-time fan of dark fiction. His book reviews have appeared on a number of genre websites such as The Alien Online, Infinity Plus, Necropsy, The Agony Column and Horrorwold.

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