by Harry Turtledove
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Published as part of a relaunch of WSFA Press and in commemoration of Harry Turtledove being guest of honor at Capclave in 2009, Reincarnations is a collection of eight stories Turtledove has published over the years, including one original, "Bluethroats." Of the eight stories, only "The Phantom Tolbukhin" has previously been reprinted. The title of the book, which matches well WSFA Press's plan to begin publishing again, comes from Turtledove's shortest published story, essentially a set-up and a pun.
"Reincarnation" is not the only light, and short, piece included in Reincarnations. "Worlds Enough, and Time" was originally published as part of Analog's "Probability Zero" series, in which authors simply write a piece to have a little fun with it. More than twice the length of "Reincarnation," "Worlds Enough, and Time" has enough meat on it to make it more than simply a joke.
The remaining six stories, even when humorous, are quite definitely stories and demonstrate Turtledove's versatility. Widely known for his alternate histories, Turtledove does provide "The Phantom Tolbukhin" and "He Woke in Darkness" to satisfy the historical desires of his readers. Moso" postulates a world in which cats are large enough to hunt large prey in a story which might be deemed "alternate natural history." "The Haunted Bicuspid, a tribute to both Edgar Allan Poe and L. Sprague de Camp, shows a different side of Turtledove's imagination and writing, even if the story has an historical setting. "He Woke in Darkness," set in the recent passed is a very disturbing story.
The final story in the collection, "They'd Never-" takes the humor Turtledove touched on in "Worlds Enough, and Time" and "Reincarnation" and demonstrates that he is able to maintain the humor throughout an entire story (although his long-time readers, and those who have read The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump already knows he has this ability.) Originally written for Esther Friesner's anthology Alien Pregnant by Elvis, this story deals with what happens when someone who has sold his reputation suddenly finds that having a good reputation might prove useful.
"Bluemouths," the only original story in the collection is also the most atypical of Turtledove's stories. Set just outside Nome, Alaska, it tells the story of a father and daughter as they retreat from the cares of their daily lives on a bird-watching expedition to spot the bluemouths of the title. Almost more a slice-of-life piece than a story, it focuses on their relationship to each other, the father's attempts to come to terms with his wife's death from cancer, and the daughter's current divorce. While the rest of the stories have elements of science fiction or the fantastic in them, "Bluemouths" is firmly rooted in the real world.
Reincarnations is an attractive, if slim, volume that collections several of Turtledove's stories, some of them quite strong, into one place, with the addition of the one previously unpublished tale. It provides a good introduction to his writing, covering a range of different topics and ideas which are often lost by his close association with alternate history.
|The Haunted Bicuspid|
|The Phantom Tolbukhin|
|Worlds Enough, and Time|
|He Woke in Darkness|
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