Masterpieces: The Best Science Fiction of the Century
may not include every reader's choices for the top science fiction of the 20th century, but it lives up to its title. Editor Orson Scott Card has assembled 27 standout stories by the biggest names and best writers in the genre. Not surprisingly, most of these stories have been anthologized or collected elsewhere, and some (like Arthur C. Clarke's "Nine Billion Names of God," Harlan Ellison's "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman," and Robert A. Heinlein's "All You Zombies--") have been reprinted innumerable times. In addition, Card has previously placed some of these selections in his retrospective 1980s anthology Future on Ice
While some stories in Masterpieces lack fine prose and well-rounded characters, they are solid and engrossing entertainments. Other selections combine literary and science fiction virtues to produce a superior blend, and some of these stories--"Bears Discover Fire" by Terry Bisson, "Snow" by John Crowley, "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman" by Harlan Ellison, "Face Value" by Karen Joy Fowler, "Tourists" by Lisa Goldstein, and "The Ones Who Walked Away from Omelas" by Ursula K. Le Guin--are art.
Masterpieces isn't an anthology for the well-read fan. However, it is a great book for the new or intermediate science fiction reader. --Cynthia Ward
The 29 classic stories in this anthology are as well chosen as you might expect, given editor Card's formidable knowledge of the field and his fellow writers, knowledge that makes his introductory comments on each story very good, further enhancing the book's considerable value for the classroom and as an introduction to major stories and writers for nonstudents. Card's selections span the period from 1936 to 1995, and from Edmond Hamilton's "Devolution" through Lisa Goldstein's "Tourist," they are outstanding. The authors represented constitute an sf hall of fame: Heinlein, Bradbury, Asimov, Clarke, Pohl, Ellison, Le Guin, and others as famous and beloved. Toward the end of the collection, a few stories, like so much current sf, blur the lines between sf and fantasy, which makes one hope that Card, a man of mighty prowess in both genres, will compile a companion volume of fantasy stories. Should he, buy that book, too. Roland GreenCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved