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Alien Contact Paperback – November 1, 2011

3.9 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Marty Halpern, a 2001 World Fantasy Award Finalist, is the editor of Golden Gryphon Press, legendary in SF circles. He lives in San Jose.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Night Shade Books; 1St Edition edition (November 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597802816
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597802819
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,465,453 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Marty Halpern presents us with an anthology of science fiction short stories predicated on (what else?) *alien first contact*. I was looking for an anthology like this. In my desperation for such a thing, I decided to start a rumor that John Joseph Adams (currently my favorite anthologist) was going to create such an anthology. And to this, JJA replied via Twitter that Halpern had already done this. So I immediately rushed out and bought it.

Overall? I liked it very much; many stories I loved, and a few I could do without. That said, composite rating of all short stories: an even *3.5*

Individual story reviews:

» "The Thought War" by Paul McAuley : Doesn't align well with *my* idea of what a "first contact" story is, but it fits with a modified view of that trope within the genre. It has a few moments, and the style works pretty well. 3.5 of 5

» "How to Talk to Girls at Parties" by Neil Gaiman : Another one that doesn't align with my idea of a "first contact" story, but is a great story just the same. Though Gaiman gives us what is more like an extended metaphor for our relationships with the opposite sex [1] than with an alternate species. Quaint and sentimental and not *overly* cloying. 4 of 5

» "Face Value" by Karen Joy Fowler : This is more like what I was looking for in a first contact story, albeit another one that uses inter-sex and/or romantic friction as the anvil for the theme's hammer blows. That said: this is a wonderfully crafted tale. 5 of 5

» "The Road Not Taken" by Harry Turtledove : A quirky take on the first contact theme; I enjoyed some of the inversions, not to mention the way he explored the non-linear nature of technological development (as alluded to in the title).
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Format: Paperback
My copy has not yet arrived but I am posting this table of contents for potential buyers. I wish Amazon would do this for all collections and anthologies. Pretty impressive list of authors. I will amend this review after I've read the book.

Marty Halpern -- "Introduction: Beginnings..."
Paul McAuley -- "The Thought War"
Neil Gaiman -- "How to Talk to Girls at Parties"
Karen Joy Fowler -- "Face Value"
Harry Turtledove -- "The Road Not Taken"
George Alec Effinger -- "The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, Everything"
Stephen King -- "I Am the Doorway"
Pat Murphy -- "Recycling Strategies for the Inner City"
Mike Resnick -- "The 43 Antarean Dynasties"
Orson Scott Card -- "The Gold Bug"
Bruce McAllister -- "Kin"
Ernest Hogan -- "Guerrilla Mural of a Siren's Song"
Pat Cadigan -- "Angel"
Ursula K. Le Guin -- "The First Contact with the Gorgonids"
Adam-Troy Castro -- "Sunday Night Yams at Minnie and Earl's"
Michael Swanwick -- "A Midwinter's Tale"
Mark W. Tiedemann -- "Texture of Other Ways"
Cory Doctorow -- "To Go Boldly"-
Elizabeth Moon -- "If Nudity Offends You"
Nancy Kress -- "Laws of Survival"
Jack Skillingstead -- "What You Are About to See"
Robert Silverberg -- "Amanda and the Alien"
Jeffrey Ford -- "Exo-Skeleton Town"
Molly Gloss -- "Lambing Season"
Bruce Sterling -- "Swarm"
Charles Stross -- "MAXO Signals"
Stephen Baxter -- "Last Contact"
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Format: Kindle Edition
It's always a lot to sort through a collection of shorts and give an appropriate rating. The twenty-six stories in this book yielded an average rating of 3.73 stars, which, when rounded, would give me an average of 4 stars. Here's the thing though. I rated eight stories at five stars. Such a high number of five star stories might move me up, but then there was one other detail. None of the stories struck me as a true gem among them all. A classic worthy of rereading time and again. As a result my four star final rating stuck. Without a lot of detail, here's a quick breakdown on the twenty-six stories.

"The Thought War by Paul McAuley - Interesting twist on zombies, a subject that has been done to death. 5 stars
How To Talk To Girls At Parties by Neil Gaiman - A real interesting premise of all kinds of different aliens visiting Earth to experience it and gathered at a house party. 4 stars
"Face Value by Karen Joy Fowler. An intriguing foray into first contact on an alien world where initial contact is kept to a minimum to limit cultural contamination. 5 stars
The Road Not Taken by Harry Turtledove. A frolicking fun invasion by aliens who have mastered space travel before anything else. 4 stars
The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, Everything by George Alec Effinger. A healthy dose of comedy mixed into a peaceful invasion of Earth. 5 stars.
I Am The Doorway by Stephen King. A horror themed tale of an alien infestation in a man`s hands. Some incredulity for me. 3 stars
Recycling Strategies For The Inner City by Pat Murphy. It's amazing what you can find lying in the street. A cute story of just such an encounter. 5 stars
The 43 Antarean Dynasties by Mike Resnick. A tale poking fun at tourists. At times, boring. Not a lot to the tale.
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Format: Paperback
The editor came up with the nifty idea of bringing together First Contact short stories from the last 30 years. Tales too young to be the classics, and perhaps have fallen through the cracks of going out of print. Typically, most of the stories in this book came out in various scifi magazines of limited circulations.

Of these, I was pleased to see that the editor saw fit to include Turtledove's "Road Less Taken".

[Warning: Plot spoilers!!!]

We all know of the conventional storylines where a civilisation, human or otherwise, achieves a high level of ground based technology, before making spaceships. But Turtledove posited something quite novel. What if an alien civilisation was at the level of the Conquistadors, with the corresponding rapacious ethics. And they stumbled upon a hyperdrive that was possible with that technology. That is the premise; the deux ex machina. Turtledove laid out that this would totally short circuit any scientific development. No computers; no germ theory; no weapons beyond the blunderbuss and the like. The aliens then go conquering. Until they come to 21st century Earth. Landing at UCLA. They kill the human diplomats who go to greet them, and are then taken down by US soldiers. Humans decipher the hyperdrive. The story ends here. But was the launching pad for a series of his stories that alas did not make it into an entire book. The sheer audacity of the plot shows Turtledove at his best. He truly found a mindbender.

The other stories in Alien Contact are certainly good, but none as memorable as this.
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