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A mixed bag
on June 4, 2002
This early collection of short stories by David Brin spans a wide range of styles and subject matter. As a result, it is not the sort of book that reads well in one sitting. But when read one story (or section of stories, as they are loosely organized by theme) at a time, the book is far more enjoyable. Brin's introductory notes on each story are a very nice addition to the stories themselves.
Among the stories, I particularly liked "The Crystal Spheres" with its interesting take on space travel, answer to the "if intelligent life exists in the universe, why haven't they contacted us yet?" question, and its suggestion that the universe is actually protecting us a little bit. I also enjoyed "Tank Farm Dynamo". However, far and away the standout story in this collection is the title story "The River of Time". This is one of my favourite short stories by any author, both for the unique concept of time as a true river with tributaries and currents, and for its tight execution. It made me stop and consider the linearity of time in an entirely new way.
If you can locate a copy of this book, which is sadly out of print again, and you enjoy concept-based stories, it is well worth picking up for the title story alone.