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by Gardner Dozois



539pp/$30.00/August 2001

Strange Days
Cover by Stephen Youll

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Although Gardner Dozois is probably best known as the editor of the eighteen-year-old Year's Best Science Fiction anthology published annually by St. Martin's Press and the editor of Asimov's since 1986, before he became an editor he was an author who had been nominated for Hugos and Nebulas.  In conjunction with Millennium Philcon, at which Dozois was a guest of honor, NESFA Press published a collection of twenty-three of Dozois's stories.

One of the features which sets this apart from Dozois's earlier collections is the fact that each story is prefaced by a brief introduction by a different science fiction author.  These introductions present a personal face to the author who would otherwise be a chameleon based on the different voices he uses in the variety of stories which have been collected.

Dozois uses him voice changing abilities to good effect in "The Clowns" and "The Gods of Mars," both tributes to the writing of Ray Bradbury.  Similarly, "Send No Money" is a darker version of Philip K. Dick's "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale."  These stories, however, are more than just paeans to earlier authors, each of them has something distinct to say in an entertaining, and disturbing, way.

One of the reasons Dozois is able to write in so many different styles may be the number of collaborations he has taken part in.  The collaborators represented in Strange Days include Susan Caspar, Jack Dann, Jack C. Haldeman II, and Michael Swanwick.  However, even the stories Dozois has written alone demonstrate his ability to find the correct tone for the story, as evidenced by the Hugo-nominated "Strangers" or the New England backwoods tale "Flash Point."

Based on the stories in Strange Days, a reader may feel that the science fiction genre lost a great deal when Dozois decided to edit, rather than write full time.  However, as John W. Campbell before him, Dozois's influence on the field as an editor is, probably, greater than it could ever have been as an author.  Furthermore, Dozois has continued to write since assuming the helm of Asimov's, although nowhere near as prolifically in his earlier days.

Dozois has elected to open the collection with the only non-fiction essay in the book.  His travelogue of the trip he and Susan Casper took to England and Scotland in the weeks leading up to the 1995 Worldcon in Glasgow.  While Dozois does an excellent job describing his activities, and brought back memories of several place I've visited, I tend to enjoy a little more historical background when I read travelogues.  However, he does a masterful job of recreating the characters he came into contact with from the randy pub-crawler in Portree to the dogs of Hartland Point.

For those who only know Dozois as the editor of Asimov's or the Year's Best Science Fiction, Strange Days is a wonderful introduction to a side of him which is not seen frequently enough.  It demonstrates that Dozois can create as well as he can edit, a skill which is not always available to editors.  The introductions provided by authors such as Kim Stanley Robinson, Robert Silverberg, Pat Cadigan and others give an indication of Dozois's personality as well as the range of subgenres in which he feels comfortable.

Travel Diary The Gods of Mars
Solace Golden Apples of the Sun
The Mayan Variation The Clowns
Touring Dinner Party
Snow Job Flash Point
Send No Money A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows
The Storm The Last Day of July
Afternoon at Schraffts Playing the Game
Down Among the Dead Men Passage
Community The Visible Man
A Cat Horror Story Executive Clemency

Purchase this book in hardcover from Amazon Books.

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