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Redshift: Extreme Visions of Speculative Fiction Hardcover – December 1, 2001
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
In the decades since Michael Moorcock's magazine New Worlds and Harlan Ellison's anthology Dangerous Visions shattered taboos and transformed science fiction, editors have yearned to do likewise. But science fiction and Western society have changed greatly since the 1960s, and though new taboos have been born, there aren't many left. They can still be shattered, but any taboo-challenging fiction that appears in the same year as the movie Freddy Got Fingered has a tough job, and Redshift: Extreme Visions of Speculative Fiction is hardly as extreme as promised. For example, nonwhite and homosexual characters are rare; the status quo goes largely unchallenged; and a few of the 30 stories are young-adult in tone and subject, with the others having little that would disturb new-millennium youth, a generation accustomed to wearing bondage/fetish gear to the dance clubs. The rare examples of taboo breaking include a black character with a disturbingly thick accent and a posthuman race that commits mass murder for policy; but the anthology's potentially most challenging story gets there as a result of publication after September 11, 2001: Harry Turtledove's well-written but traditional modern fantasy "Black Tulip" is sympathetic to Afghanis.
Ignore the subtitle. Redshift is a very good anthology of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, with some stories, like Gregory Benford's "Anomalies" and Joyce Carol Oates's "Commencement," that will become classics of speculative fiction. --Cynthia Ward
From Publishers Weekly
For this big, glitzy original anthology, Sarrantonio asked his contributors to write short stories that could "influence the course of sf for the next twenty-five years." That's a fairly pretentious goal. Sarrantonio's working subtitle was "Dangerous Visions for the New Millennium," a nod to Harlan Ellison's revolutionary 1967 story anthology with subjects and/or styles too hot for publishers at the time. Nowadays, there aren't many taboos in SF, so this anthology mostly shows how accessible formerly "extreme" stories have become. Looked at simply as stories, the contents are occasionally disappointing. Some pieces are included because of the writers' reputations, some have a message that overpowers everything else, some are too brief to be much more than displays of style, and some suffer from multiple weaknesses. But there are excellent stories, too, showing the range of contemporary SF, such as Dan Simmons's tale of a human-alien team of mountain climbers, "On K2 with Kanakaredes," and Stephen Baxter's picture of human nature reasserting itself after extreme distortion, "In the Un-Black." In addition, Gene Wolfe ("Viewpoint") and Rudy Rucker and John Shirley ("Pockets") present message stories with real plots. Greg Benford ("Anomalies") offers a short tale as compact and deadly as a coral snake, while Catherine Wells ("'Bassador") and Neal Barrett Jr. ("Rhido Wars") use mind-stretching prose styles effectively. That's a pretty good average, actually, and the rest are worth reading to see how the writers responded to the editor's challenge. Agent, Ralph Vicinanza. (Dec. 4)horror fiction.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
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Let's highlight the excellent stories here. The three longest stories include two novellas and a long novelette. The weakest novella, surprisingly enough, is Gene Wolfe's "Viewpoint," which is a gripping enough story, about a man given $100,000 -- if he can keep it while the government and ordinary people track him with the help of the media. It's a thrilling read, but it fails due to overly strident politics and a certain lack of plausibility. The other novella is Elizabeth Hand's "Cleopatra Brimstone." This is beautifully written, line by line, but it is way too long (as Sarrantonio all but admits in his introduction). Still, it's a very pleasing read, about a woman, studying insects in college, who goes to London to recuperate from a rape, and finds that she has developed a curious sort of alter ego with a strange power. The story is absorbing throughout, but the thematic payout and the telegraphed twist ending don't really reward 20,000-plus words. Dan Simmons' long opening novelette, "On K2 With Kanakaredes," is a satisfying story of mountain climbing with an inscrutable alien guest. Simmons both tells a gripping mountain adventure, and tells an interesting SF story about contact with aliens.
Perhaps the strangest story in the book is the closing story, Neal Barrett, Jr.'s "Rhido Wars." It's difficult to precisely describe -- I'm not sure I understand it anyway. It seems to be the story of a group of humans under the control of some baboons, and a war between the main character's "tribe" and another "tribe," featuring "rhidos." The main focus is on the main character, a young man in charge of his four younger siblings. His love for his brothers and especially his sister, and his fatalistic acceptance of their position, are very well portrayed, in a bleak and moving tale.
I was also taken with a couple of more satirical pieces. James Patrick Kelly's brief "Unique Visitors" takes a look at a person awakened sometime in the future, and his slow realization of his condition. Paul Di Filippo is at his most all out viciously satirical in "Weeping Walls," about a near future businesswoman who markets the title products to help people deal with their grief fashionably. Also fine are "The Building," another of Ursula K. Le Guin's excellent essays in "anthropological" SF, with a subtle moral point; and Thomas M. Disch's "In Xanadu," an extended riff on death and cyberspace, built on references to Coleridge's poem. Another interesting take on death and the afterlife is P.D. Cacek's "Belief," which familiarly enough shows a soldier sent to the after-life to continue fighting -- but who he is fighting is a well-sprung surprise. And, finally, Stephen Baxter's "In the Un-Black" is a nearly incomprehensible but still evocative tale of the changes humans have inflected on themselves to fight their extended war with the Xeelee.
So, even if Redshift doesn't live up to the editor's hype, and even if it features quite a few stories that aren't really up to snuff, it is a long book, and the best stories in it are certainly worth the price of the book, and worth your reading attention.
Sarrantonio compares _Redshift_ to Ellison's 'Dangerous Visions' series, saying that many of the stories in _Redshift_ are too 'dangerous' or controversial to be published in traditional sources. In my opinion, the only controversial story in the anthology is Sarrantonio's own 'Billy the Fetus', which I assume wouldn't be published in traditional outlets because it's too disgusting. The remainder of the stories are far more mainstream.
My favorite stories in this anthology are 'In the Un-Black' by Stephen Baxter and 'Cleopatra Brimstone' by Elizabeth Hand. Hand's story is a novella about a student studying entomology who discovers she has supernatural powers while integrating the London goth scene. The student, who was a victim of a rape earlier in the story, takes her revenge on men by somehow turning them into butterflies. It's a haunting story that stays in mind long after it's over.
Baxter's contribution to the volume is set in his familiar Xeelee universe. This story concerns a race of drones who work the entirety of their short lives in slavery to a master race in the hopes that they can win passage out of their imprisonment. The story centers around two drones who flaunt their master's rules and fall in love. Less hard science than most of Baxter's pieces, which is why I enjoyed it so much.
Other good stories come from Dan Simmons, Harry Turtledove, P.D. Cacek, Kit Reed, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, David Morrell, and Rudy Rucker & John Shirley. There were only two stories in the collection that didn't work for me, those by Gene Wolfe and Neal Barrett, Jr. (particularly disappointing since both authors are among my personal favorites).
On the whole this was an enjoyable anthology. Nearly 550 pages of fiction from the biggest names in SF. This is a SF-lovers dream come true. It's a fat collection with good stories from favorite authors. Recommended.