by Algis Budrys
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Not too long ago, I attended a wake for Algis Budrys, who in his last years was known for his editorial position for TomorrowSF and his role in promoting the L. Ron Hubbard's Writers of the Future program. However, long before Budrys was involved with either of those projects, he was an author and book reviewer. In 1997, to celebrate Budrys's position as Guest of Honor at LoneStarCon, the 55th World Science Fiction Convention, NESFA Press published an all-too-brief collection of some of Budrys's short stories, with the appropriate title Entertainment.
On the surface, Budrys's stories were pure entertainment, whether he was telling about a robot whose memory is wiped because he is too strong a soldier or a judge who begins to wonder about the system of justice he oversees. However, even in these high level descriptions of some of Budrys's stories, it is clear that he ties his fiction in to real life issues. None of the stories come across as preachy, however, and Budrys always keeps in mind the fact that he is writing stories which should be, as the title of the collection states, entertainment.
Not all of the stories are as tightly plotted as could be desired, and some of the longer ones feel a little padded. Most of the stories included in Entertainment are short enough that this doesn't become a major problem. Instead, their general brevity makes the collection even stronger since it allows for the inclusion of ten stories, each of which are very different in tone and style, providing a nice introduction to Budrys's work. For those who enjoy the stories presented, the book helpfully presents a complete bibliography of Budrys's work up to that time, although according to the ISFDB, Budrys's only credits after Entertainment was published were the Writers of the Future collections he edited, thereby essentially making this a complete bibliography.
If Entertainment lacks anything, it is that there are no authorial introductions or afterwords to the individual stories. Instead Budrys and editors Rick Katze and Anthony R. Lewis allow the stories to stand on their own. While this is understandable for a collection in which the author is no longer living, it is a nice touch for collections by living authors, although it does not detract from the quality of the stories themselves.
Entertainment provides an entertaining introduction to Budrys's short fiction, although it is all too brief, especially given that the editors provide a listing of all the works not included. By the time readers get to this extensive bibliography, they will have a good idea whether or not it is worth their while to track down additional works by Budrys. Fortunately, Entertainment will not only provide the taste of his writing necessary to make that decision, but also the information making tracking down other stories or novels easier.
|The Executioner||The Distant Sound of Engines|
|Silent Brother||Contact Between Equals|
|Never Meet Again||First to Serve|
|Go and Behold Them||The Skirmisher|
|The Burning World||The End of Summer|
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