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Tesseracts 9
edited by Nalo Hopkinson and Geoff Ryman
Edge, 391 pages

Tesseracts 9
Nalo Hopkinson
Nalo Hopkinson grew up in Jamaica, Trinidad, and Guyana, before moving with her family to Toronto in 1977. Her first novel, Brown Girl in the Ring (1998) won the Warner Aspect First Novel Contest, and the 1999 Locus Award for Best First Novel, and she won the 1998 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

Nalo Hopkinson Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Salt Roads
SF Site Review: Skin Folk
SF Site Review: Brown Girl In The Ring
SF Site Review:Whispers From the Cotton Tree Root: Caribbean Fabulist Fiction
SF Site Review: Midnight Robber
SF Site Review: Brown Girl in the Ring
Excerpt: Midnight Robber
Interview: Nalo Hopkinson

Geoff Ryman
Geoff Ryman is the author of several novels including The Unconquered Country (1984) which won both the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) Award and the World Fantasy Award. The Child Garden (1989) won the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the John W Campbell Memorial Award (First Place). An extract of it, published in Interzone, also won a BSFA Award.

Geoff Ryman Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Was

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Donna McMahon

Tesseracts 9 is the first anthology in the Tesseracts series that I've managed to read in its entirety. The previous Tesseracts I sampled (and maybe I was just unlucky in my selections) felt overburdened with ponderous, somber work that seemed to have been picked for literary 'respectability' rather than story-telling.

Tesseracts 9 seems different, and it may have something to do with the new trade paperback format which doesn't fit on my shelf as conveniently, but is much more reader-friendly than its tightly-bound little predecessors that kept trying to snap shut on my fingers or jump off my bedside table. (Unreasonable to be influenced by other than literary considerations? Well, hah! I'm a reviewer and I can be unreasonable!)

If I had to pick something that many of these stories had in common, it would be that the vast majority are strongly emotional narratives, rather than aloof exercises of the intellect. This may partly reflect the heavy Fantasy content. Only a few stories, such as "Mayfly" by Peter Watts and Derryl Murphy, could really be characterized as SF.

Still, there's a wide range of material here, from absurdist humour (such as Jerome Stueart's "Lemmings in the Third Year" and Candas Jane Dorsey's "Mom and Mother Teresa") through poetry, vampires and time travel.

Although filled out by some long stories, this collection contains many extremely effective short pieces. Two worthy of particular mention are "Newbie Wrangler" by Timothy J. Anderson (involving desert urchins and a peacekeeping mission) and "The Singing" by Dan Rubin (about an old Inuk woman). I can't say much about either without including spoilers, except to note that they both cover a great deal of emotional territory in a very few pages.

And one reason for that is that both stories revolve around death. In fact, death is a theme in this anthology, lending many stories weight without necessarily making them pessimistic or depressing.

Since Nalo Hopkinson and Geoff Ryman didn't bother wrestling with issues of Canadian theme or identity (thank you!) and instead just got on with collecting good writing by Canadian authors, there is a wide range of well-realized settings in this volume also. For instance, "Before the Altar on the Feast for All Souls" by Marg Gilks takes place in a vividly drawn Mexican village, and "Principles of Animal Eugenics" by the versatile Yves Menard, uses an imaginary setting equally well -- a sort of Stalinist Island of Dr. Moreau.

My favourite for its textured background was Nancy Kilpatrick's "Our Lady of the Snows," about an old woman whose life is changed by a mysterious plaster Madonna. Kilpatrick's description of being poor in a Montreal winter just about makes you smell the socks steaming on the radiators in the dingy welfare tenements.

Time travel aficionados are likely to enjoy "See Kathryn Run," a complex tale of science, intrigue and murder in multiple dimensions by Elisabeth Vonarburg. I was also impressed by Steve Stanton's "Writing on the Wall" -- in which good characterization carries an otherwise simple tale of a mathematician determined to prove the possibility of time travel.

Finally, I must mention "Mirrors," by Rene Beaulieu, a sentimental tale of two survivors from a crashed colony ship, trying to live twenty-five years until the next ship arrives. A little melodramatic, perhaps, but I certainly couldn't put it down.

In summary, this is what I think a Tesseracts collection ought to be -- a showcase for good Canadian writing, containing a widely varied selection of compelling stories. There should be something here for everyone.

Copyright © 2005 Donna McMahon

Donna McMahon discovered science fiction in high school and fandom in 1977, and never recovered. Dance of Knives, her first novel, was published by Tor in May, 2001, and her book reviews won an Aurora Award the same month. She likes to review books first as a reader (Was this a Good Read? Did I get my money's worth?) and second as a writer (What makes this book succeed/fail as a genre novel?). You can visit her website at

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