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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More for fans than for newcomers
While this anthology may appear to be aimed at newcomers to the genre (or subgenre), I doubt that newcomers will get as much out of it as fans who have already read a good deal of the material referred to here as "the new space opera." Why? Many of the stories take place in universes already visited by the authors. The degree of integration with earlier work varies;...
Published on January 4, 2008 by Michael Lichter

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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The best are the stories from Silverberg and Reynolds
By reading the short stories and novellas in this volume, one quickly realizes that the term "space opera" is used rather broadly. Here's my synopsis of the stories (and some general observations along the way):

"Saving Tiamaat," "Verthandi's Ring" & "Hatch": I don't really know, because I found them so convoluted that I didn't finish them. Some of the...
Published on September 14, 2007 by trainreader


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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More for fans than for newcomers, January 4, 2008
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This review is from: The New Space Opera (Paperback)
While this anthology may appear to be aimed at newcomers to the genre (or subgenre), I doubt that newcomers will get as much out of it as fans who have already read a good deal of the material referred to here as "the new space opera." Why? Many of the stories take place in universes already visited by the authors. The degree of integration with earlier work varies; Gwyneth Jones' so-so story "Saving Tiaamat," takes place in the same universe as her WHITE QUEEN novel and its sequels, but does not involve the "Aleutians" or any earlier characters. Peter F. Hamilton's barely-readable "Blessed by an Angel" takes place in the same universe as PANDORA'S STAR and requires some knowledge of that universe but doesn't seem to add much. (It does, however, strengthen my opinion that Hamilton is a dreadful writer.) In contrast, Robert Reed's adventure-packed "Hatch" takes place on the surface of the "Great Ship" introduced in his novel MARROW (which I haven't read) and appears to shed new light on what goes on inside the ship.

Although most of the stories stand on their own--I think Hamilton's is the only exception--I think newcomers would still get a better introduction to today's space opera by starting with a novel or two, like Reynolds' REVELATION SPACE (on the heavier side), Stross' SINGULARITY SKY, or Scalzi's OLD MAN'S WAR (on the lighter side). (Note that Stross and Scalzi do not have stories in this volume.)

The book has a number of highlights. Walter Jon Williams' yarn "Send Them Flowers," features a couple of not-quite-on-the-level pals who flit around in a space yacht. Williams' irresponsible and irresistible (to women) character Tonio is a humorous wonder. Tony Daniel's "The Valley of the Gardens" is a weird, charming, and melancholy tale about a man and a woman who sacrifice themselves to save the world. Dan Simmons' "Muse of Fire" may overstate the cosmic importance of Shakespeare, but it is nonetheless surprising and engaging. While the book also has low points, none of the stories, aside from Hamilton's contribution, are truly bad. Baker's "Maelstrom" is silly and patronizing to its characters, Rosenblum's "Splinters of Glass," is awkwardly written (but clearly superior to Hamilton in execution if not imagination), and McDonald's "Verthandi's Ring," is artsy but empty.

In sum, this collection is not going to blow anybody away, but it's a worthwhile addition to the library of any fan of contemporary space opera.
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22 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for all science fiction fans, July 15, 2007
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Paul Lappen (Manchester, CT USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The New Space Opera (Paperback)
Space opera has been defined as "colorful action-adventure stories of interplanetary or interstellar conflict." These new, never before published stories are tales of aliens and alien cultures, not just interstellar war stories.

A pair of human researchers change their species to investigate a scientific anomaly on another planet. A group of traveling Shakespearean actors give the performances of their lives for the aliens who have conquered and enslaved Earth. A human society which has barely conquered the airplane has less than 100 years to live; their sun is in the path of a destructive stellar phenomena. An experienced interstellar traveler urges/pushes them into a crash course in spaceflight. He has to deal with what the society has become.

An alien ship the size of Jupiter has been turned into the ultimate cruise ship, on an eons-long trip around the galaxy. After a hijack attempt goes wrong, a number of passengers are trapped outside the ship and are forced to create their own society on the ship's hull. A very rich man on Mars decides to bring Art and Culture to the miners who live there. He spares no expense to build a theatre with imported walnut paneling, and advertises on Earth, for actors who are ready to emigrate to Mars.

I really enjoyed these stories. Each of the authors in this collection very much knows what they are doing. This is a formidable group of tales, and is essential reading for all science fiction fans.
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The best are the stories from Silverberg and Reynolds, September 14, 2007
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trainreader (Montclair, N.J.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The New Space Opera (Paperback)
By reading the short stories and novellas in this volume, one quickly realizes that the term "space opera" is used rather broadly. Here's my synopsis of the stories (and some general observations along the way):

"Saving Tiamaat," "Verthandi's Ring" & "Hatch": I don't really know, because I found them so convoluted that I didn't finish them. Some of the authors of these stories introduce the reader to a slew of aliens, alien civilizations, and future technologies in a few pages, where maybe a 50 page introduction to a 300 or so page book would be adequate.

"Winning Peace": Not bad, but could have used a longer treatment. A common theme in this volume seems to be the situation where one group of humans (or aliens) subjugate another group of humans, who find some means of revenge in the end.

"Glory": There are so many things going on in this story, that I'm not sure why the author didn't write a full-fledged novel. I would even read it.

"Maelstrom": This is one of the more memorable stories because it's about a group of rag-tag actors on a recently colonized Mars who put on a play which loosely reflects the lives of colonists. It's surprisingly humorous, but categorizing it as a "space opera" is really a stretch.

"Blessed by an Angel": If I hadn't have read Peter Hamilton's incredible "Pandora's Star" (and the much more mediocre sequal "Judas Unchained"), I would have been completely lost. That's another thing that you find in the volume -- some of the backgrounds of these short stories were already covered in full-blown novels. This particular story is ok, but I would think incomprehensible to one who didn't read "Pandora's Star."

"Who's Afraid of Wolf 359"?: I'm sure I read it, but nothing sticks with me.

"The Valley of the Gardens": A touching Romeo and Juliet type love story set on an alien world. This also cries out for a longer treatment.

"Dividing the Sustain": Utterly bizarre. Don't know what quite to think about it. Another thought I have about alot of these stories is that the authors tend to forget that if real/actual/virtual time is substantially longer than one's perceived time on a space-ship, the technology will change completely once the voyage is finished (think about our technology 20 years ago).

"Minla's Flowers": A superb novella about a space traveller who attempts to advance a civilization before its time to avert disaster. I really liked this one and am interested in reading more by the author (Alastair Reynolds).

"Splinters of Glass": Most of it describes a chase scene on flying skateboards through icy pathways on Europa (and a love story to boot). OK, as far as it goes.

"Rememberance": An interesting tale about an alien race that nearly destroys humanity and makes everyone (save one person) forget about it. Humanity now has the power to destroy them. Also could have been better as a full fledged novel, or a decent Star Trek episode.

"The Emperor and the Maula": Maybe because I'm such a huge Robert Silverberg fan, this was my favorite entry. It tells the story of a far future human race, that had finally found peace and cooperation, only to be subjugated by the Ansaar, who conquer the Earth through a terrifying shock and awe campaign, and then basically treat humans like an insignificant nuisance (part of the "Maula" -- creatures below contempt). A brave young woman named Laylah visits the Ansaar's home planet knowing it means her certain execution. But she manages to get in the presence of the Emperor who doesn't quite know what to make of her. Silverberg's traditional skills, such as describing exotic alien planets, and the arrogance of a supreme leader, shine through here. "The Emperor and the Maula" could probably work just as well as a fable without a scifi/space opera setting. In fact, it reminded me somewhat of the story of Purim, (Laylah reminded me an awful lot of Esther).

"The Worm Turns": Strange and surrealistic. Like some of the other stories, one needs to probably understand something about wormholes in order to appreciate it, which I really don't.

"Send them Flowers": Dull and one of the few entries I thought was too long.

"Art of War": An exo-art historian, who has a hostile relationship with his mother (a four star general in the military), tries to find a pattern in how an enemy alien race arranged art in caves which they had stolen from humans. Huh?

"Muse of Fire": I loved "Hyperion," but I often find Dan Simmon's writing to be extremely dense. Here, he shows off his obviously prodigious knowledge of Shakespeare. The story wasn't bad, but he really shouldn't have tried to cram all this stuff (the performance of Shakespearean plays in front of a serious of increasingly God-like aliens) into 61 pages.

Read "The New Space Opera," if you like short science fiction stories. It may also lead you to an author or two in whom you might become interested.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointingly Low Amount of Good Stories, July 18, 2009
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This review is from: The New Space Opera (Paperback)
What is "space opera"? The introduction succinctly and accurately calls it romantic adventure science fiction told on a grand scale. It then traces the history of the sub-genre from its stirrings in the 1890s to its full-fledged birth in the 1920s to its nadir in the 1960s and 1970s, when the New Wave made it unfashionable, to its rebirth, while American authors were developing cyberpunk, at the hands of the British in the 1980s and 1990s.

For that grand scale, I'd specify vast scales of time and space and weaponry. The fate of species - their lives or at least their sanity and cultural viability - should be at stake and not some mere individual's happiness or survival. Some of the stories in this collection are good but not space opera. Some are both. But there aren't enough good stories of any type to give this collection a higher rating.

The following stories fall in the unsuccessful and not even space opera category. The setup for Gwyneth Jones "Saving Timaat", the narrator helping in the negotiations between representatives of two warring groups, the one cannibalistic predators on the other, is good but the emotional connection of the narrator to the cannibal chief and her motivations are too oblique. James Patrick Kelly's "Dividing the Sustain" is a would-be comedy of manners about a courier aboard a ship of communist colonists and the steps he takes to get close to the captain's estranged wife, subject of an unaccountable infatuation, and to avoid getting "stale", a consequence of longevity treatments. Not at all interesting. Nancy Kress has put out some wonderful work, particularly when she engages in speculating about the consequences of biotech. However, her "Art of War" seems just a writerly exercise in developing the title phrase into a story and playing around with the cliché of stern military father (here a stern military mom) and a disappointing son. The story's war between alien Teli and humans and the place each species' art plays in the struggle just didn't have the grand feel of space opera.

In the good but not space opera category are several works. Paul J. McAuley's "Winning Peace" has the flavor if not the plot of Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad and the Ugly or a film noir. Its protagonist, sold into slavery after being taken prisoner in humanity's civil war, is offered freedom in exchange for aiding in the quest for an alien artifact. He, however, has other plans - as do all the human and alien principals in this story. Mary's Rosenblum's "Splinters of Glass" is a chase story initiated when the protagonist's old girlfriend, from whom he's been hiding, shows up with assassins in tow. He and the woman head out into the fissures of an ice world. Walter Jon Williams' "Sends Them Flowers" has an interesting background - alternate universes differentiated not by divergences from some historical point but slightly different physical laws - and a couple of interesting characters tramping about in their inherited spaceship. However, the problems of the duo, most of them caused by the womanizing of the ex-con, don't have the grandiosity required by space opera.

In the not very engaging but still space opera category are several stories. Kage Baker's "Maelstrom" gets in here solely because its Martian setting, with a group of misfits trying, in an unsuccessfully humorous plot, to stage Edgar Poe's "Descent into the Maelstrom" evokes the spirit of the American West, one of the spiritual ancestors of the space opera. Gregory Benford's "The Worm Turns", sequel to his "A Worm in the Well", has lots of hard science with a cometary prospector and her artificial intelligence heading through a wormhole. But I found the story, even with its encounters with aliens on the other side of the wormhole - they're not at all happy about seeing humans, the resulting conversations between the aliens and AI, and the banter between machine and prospector uninvolving. Robert Reed's "Hatch" has a promising set up: survivors of the Polypond War live on the outside of the Great Ship (setting for several Reed stories) and scavenge materials castoff by the cloud-like biomech Polypond. However, the ending is too obscure and wrecks an interesting story. Tony Daniel's "The Valley of the Gardens" has a key ingredient of space opera: a vast war between aliens from another universe and humans, a war humans are loosing, And the plot, alternating between the unexpected human victory in that war and its consequences on a young man's world, was intriguing. The payoff, though, seems another writerly exercise in contrived symmetry between the two halves of the story, and the relation between a soldier and his weapon a badly literalized metaphor.

Another story marred by a too neat plot contrivance is Ian McDonald's "Verthandi's Ring". However, it's not marred enough to keep it out of the good and space opera category. Like some of the best stories in this collection, it brings the red in tooth and claw Darwinian struggle for existence into the ecosystem of the whole universe. When two species with superscience compete, there can be no peaceful co-existence because each wants and needs all the material and energy resources of the universe. Here it is not a simple version of humanity struggling with the aliens but the many clades man has evolved into. Alien mathematical archaeology and how advanced cultures find the will to survive - as well as an opening of diamond hard science fiction describing an unusual alien probe - are in Greg Egan's excellent "Glory". Peter F. Hamilton's "Blessed by an Angel" is set in the universe of his Commonwealth. It shows that civil wars may be fought over how to control humanity's impulse to go into the box and embrace a life of lotus-eating in virtual reality. Here the conflict is not overt, doesn't involve fleets of ships, is fought with subversion and espionage but the stakes are still for the race's future. Ken Macleod is a socialist whose fiction is loved by libertarians. Here he brings his wry, cynical take on the futility of all political systems and combines it with evolutionary design strategy to show how the unfortunate inhabitants of Wolf 359 are part of an experiment to solve some old political problems. The title asks "Who's Afraid of Wolf 359?" It turns out that a lot of people should be. Alastair Reynold's "Minla's Flowers", part of his Husker sequence and direct prequel to "Merlin's Gun", has Merlin stumbling across a human world threatened with extinction, in 70 years, by a breakdown of the alien Waynet transportation network. In and out of stasis as he tries to help them develop the tech to migrate offworld, he watches a little girl develop into an unpleasant, Stalinesque leader. Stephen Baxter was one of the British revivers of space opera. His Xeelee story "Remembrance" features man's first encounter with alien invaders and the resulting bitter conflict, for which Baxter pulls out three nifty bits of diverse and credible science, teaches the hard lesson that peaceful co-existence between man and alien is a doomed and foolish notion. The redoubtable Robert Silverberg has a human woman from the backwater of an alien empire confront the Emperor and, reminiscent of Scherezade in the Arabian Nights, use her wiles to effect her purposes. "The Emperor and the Maula" doesn't really have the science and technology of new space opera, but it's definitely still space opera. One of the longest stories in the book, it's enthralling all the time. Also long and enthralling is Dan Simmon's "Muse of Fire". In a world of god-like aliens where humans are merely slaves, a troupe of Shakespearean actors is compelled to put on performances for their masters with the fate of humanity hanging in the balance. It manages to touch on the effects of art in a harsh world without engaging in easy pieties about art's power and benefits.
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19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps just not a sub genre for me, September 2, 2007
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This review is from: The New Space Opera (Paperback)
"New" space opera. I have to say I that I kind of liked the old space opera. I found these stories to be somewhat depressing and most seemed unresolved by the end of the story. I'm glad I read it however.

I think my biggest complaint is that the ends of the stories weren't generally satisfying to me. I guess the stories must have been sufficiently good in that I was anxious to see how they would turn out. However that is where I found myself disappointed.

I would recommend this collection, but I wouldn't put it at the top of my list.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great sci-fi with few exceptions, March 29, 2010
This review is from: The New Space Opera (Mass Market Paperback)
I read the second of these collections first somehow; that didn't really impact my reading of the stories presented but did make me scratch my head as to how I managed to get the books swapped.

I was most impressed by the vast majority of the stories in 'New Space Opera' with two notable exceptions: the first was Peter Hamilton's "Blessed by an Angel," which really seemed to be in need of some sort of additional backstory to have it make any sense at all; the second was Dan Simmons' "Muse of Fire," which really seemed to be stretching the importance of Shakespeare's works to an even more implausible degree than the other events in the story (I had an easier time swallowing that the events that took place regarding the ship's travel over the bits where the aliens basically were using Shakespeare's works as a way of passing judgement on all of humanity).

I was saddened to discover that one of the stories I particularly liked - "Maelstrom" - was written by a writer that was lost this year, Kage Baker. On the other hand, I was further encouraged to read more of Alastair Reynolds' work after the equally enjoyable (if completely different in tone) "Minla's Flowers."
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I think I'll take the old, January 25, 2009
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This review is from: The New Space Opera (Mass Market Paperback)
The very helpful website Readersadvice.com defines "space opera" as "Grand, melodramatic science fiction productions without the music, but with lots of great scenery, anguish, death, and an occasional fat lady." By that definition, these stories generally don't really fill the bill. These newer authors (among them are Greg Egan, Alastair Reynolds, Stephen Baxter, Gregory Benford, Walter Jon Williams, and Dan Simmons) give the impression that they would really feel more comfortable in the kind of sf that was ascendant in "the late sixties and early seventies," when, as the editors tell us, "the majority of work...[was] set on Earth, often in the near future--even the solar system had been largely deserted...let alone the distant stars." Many of the 18 stories and novellas here gathered have a dark, pessimistic feel to them--perhaps because the authors have uniformly rejected the concept of "hyperspace" or real FTL travel, perhaps because several of the stories posit a humanity conquered and humiliated by alien races--and to me at least, one of the great charms of sf has always been its essential optimism and hope. Another, of course, is the sweep and slam-bangery of Star Trek and Star Wars. This much said, I did find myself marking seven of the entries as things I might like to read again, and I usually count an anthology a success if a third of the stories in it meet that criterion. Among my favorites: Kage Baker's "Maelstrom," the wry story of an attempt to bring Culture to a Mars that combines the best of Leigh Brackett and [insert your favorite humorist here]; Mary Rosenblum's "Splinters of Glass," in which a fugitive on Europa must flee into the tunnels and ice caves of that barren moon when a face from his past appears in the spaceport; Stephen Baxter's "Remembrance," the story of a failed uprising against the occupation forces of the Squeem; and "The Emperor and the Maula," by classic writer Robert Silverberg, a far-future take on the legend of Sheherazade and the Arabian Nights. Of course, it takes all kinds of readers to make a fandom, and your mileage, as we famously say, may vary; but don't go into this collection expecting the classic space opera of Doc Smith, Edmond Hamilton, Campbell, Williamson, Brackett, and my own favorite, Poul Anderson. If you can accept it for its limitations, you may well award it a higher rating than I did. If you can't, you will be disappointed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars These stories rock., September 20, 2013
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This review is from: The New Space Opera (Paperback)
I bought this compilation for Muse of Fire. That story was all I'd hoped it would be and more. But then i started reading the other stories. Awesome collection. I will have to pick up the other Space Opera compilations. If you like sci-fi, you will love this. But if you like sci-fi, you've probably already read this book. I am late to the party.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A few good gems., February 8, 2010
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This review is from: The New Space Opera (Mass Market Paperback)
A straightforward collection of short stories involving interplanetary locations. The stories represent a pretty diverse quality. Many of the stories felt like a conceptual idea for a novel that was never fleshed out to be published on its own. Some felt like the author ended the story too quickly, in order to meet a deadline. Some presented worlds and notions so alien, that it could not be accurately described in a short story format. Finally, some are fantastically written with well presented ideas, characters, and locations.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Some Great Stories, Some Okay Stories, January 7, 2010
This review is from: The New Space Opera (Mass Market Paperback)
If you took the best 50% of the stories from this book and the best 50% from The New Space Opera 2, you'd have a truly amazing book. As it stands you have some great stories, and some pretty good stories. If you're just joining us from your usual stomping grounds of nonfiction, fantasy, or perhaps romance, you might find these stories a little "dense" - there's not much hand-holding here, familiarity with the genre is kind of assumed. If you're looking for gateway drug space opera, Ender's Game is your best bet.

The stand out stories in this book (IMHO):

The Emperor and the Maula - Robert Silverberg
Muse of Fire - Dan Simmons
Who's Afraid of Wolf 359 - Ken MacLeod
Splinters of Glass - Mary Rosenblum
Remembrance - Stephen Baxter
The Valley of the Gardens - Tony Daniels
Minla's Flowers - Alastair Reynolds

Skip:
Saving Tiamaat - Gwyneth Jones
Verthandi's Ring - Ian McDonald
Maelstrom - Kage Baker
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The New Space Opera
The New Space Opera by Gardner R. Dozois (Mass Market Paperback - August 26, 2008)
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