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The Norton Book of Science Fiction
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Top Customer Reviews
After reading this very large collection I didn't know what to think. Many of the stories are good enough, but not great. Only a handful are the kind I find myself rereading willingly. In the end I was glad I made my way through because there are some genuinely fine pieces in here, and it was interesting to read a collection that was very obviously put together in defiance of the incredibly male-dominated statistics of sci-fi.
In the end this collection is worth picking up if only for one story: Cordwainer Smith's "Alpha Ralpha Boulevard". I am serious in this. The only other place you can find it, I think, is Smith's collection of shorts "The Rediscovery of Man". I was entertained by a lot of the stories (from memory: "For the Sake of Grace", "Speech Sounds" and "The Women Men Don't See") but this is hardly a representative collection of science fiction. I'd call it a hopeful presentation, showing what Le Guin believes science fiction is capable of.
When I encountered this book in my early twenties, it introduced me to many writers whose work I've enjoyed, from Cordwainer Smith to Zenna Henderson to Joanna Russ. These are writers who are directly concerned with the social, with language and with experiments in content and form. Again, if you are looking for hard science fiction (or for rocket ships, lasers and space babes, for that matter) you won't like this book. If you are looking for a book which traces the change in SF which occurred between the fifties and the eighties, this is an excellent place to start.
Deficiencies? Some of the stories are extremely sentimental ("Lucky Strike", an alternate history of the bombing of Hiroshima, which frankly makes me tear up but is very heavy-handed). Some of the stories are inexplicably orientalizing/racist ("For The Sake of Grace" and the one with the Fanatic!Arab!Assassin!)- which is weird in a book that is obviously intended as progressive/left. There aren't many stories by writers of color (which were being written - check out Dark Matter if you don't believe me).
But honestly, the thing came out sixteen years ago and, I think, consolidated a lot of interest in New Wave and character-driven science fiction.Read more ›
Six-sevenths of my class were male, and a couple of my female students told me that it was suited for those who didn't like, or didn't think they'd like, science fiction. One liked it more for precisely that reason, and others may have too. But many students vociferously reacted to the thick book's relative dearth of machines, concepts, and inventions. Too much fiction, not enough science?
The strongest of the dozen stories I used seemed those able to enchant or challenge expectations. Octavia Butler's "Speech Sounds" worked well for a class filled with those who knew inner-city Los Angeles well. John Kessel's "Invaders" perplexed with three storylines, but those with Latin American roots welcomed its reversal of New World conquest. Bruce Sterling's "We See Things Differently" for a story from 1989 anticipates post-9/11 attitudes and a sort of Tea Party-meets-Occupy grassroots movement eerily well. These, full of conflict in a weakened America, met with most enthusiasm.
James Tiptree Jr.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I took an Introduction to Science Fiction class in college and we used this as a textbook nearly 15 years ago. I still enjoy it today. Read morePublished on July 27, 2012 by C. Vossler
If you do not trust my opinion, go to the closest library, borrow it and see what you think. This is just a terrible collection. Read morePublished on June 29, 2005 by weekend hacker