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A whimpering bang, or a bangin' whimper?
on March 21, 2012
After this, Paizo is putting their Planet Stories line on indefinate hiatus, so this will stand as the endpoint of the brand for at least a time. So does it end with a bang or a whimper, or a little bit of both? Probably both.
Once again, this is a collection of classic Robert Silverberg - the third in a row, and the second to have three novellas together. Maybe my Silverberg threshhold was being pushed as a result, but I thought this was the weakest of the three collections, with Hunt the Space Witch probably the best. Of the three stories, Starhaven was the most fun, but all stories, I think, have flaws. Sad but true, the best part of the book is probably the excellent introduction by Silverberg about writing sci-fi in the 50's and 60's.
Chalice of Death is about the potential rebirth of a long-lost human empire, based around a mythical Earth. The problem here is, finding Earth is about as hard as a trip to a local library and then chatting to some nobel savage aliens, which kind of makes it all seem a bit implausible. There are some fun moments of battle and politicing, but its probably OK rather than good or great.
Starhaven is actually pretty morally grey: an artificial world run by a strongman, where nothing is illegal - including murder. There is a little depth here as our hero is not sure himself whether he is a brainwashed space cop sent to close the place down, or not. There is also a local resistance movement, that spouts a lot of fancy rhetoric, but basically thinks that they can do a better job of avoiding the struggle for power when the Stalin-like leader eventually dies. So, they plan to bring his death forward involuntarily so they can control the outcome. At first it sounds noble - especially on a world somewhere between rogue state and libertarian paradise - but the more you think about it, no one has much goodness in their heart. Still, there are moments of derring-do and a pretty girl in a love triangle, so it definitely has moments.
The last story, Shadow on the Stars, is a time paradox sci-fi think piece, with a background overwhelming threat or two to overcome. Really though, its aiming at being hard sci-fi dealing with temporal issues, as well as themes of colonialisation and decay. Its ok, but just seemed to lack a little "fun".
All up, this is an interesting reprint of some old more or less early sci-fi tales by a guy who turned out to be a pretty damn good writer. These tales might otherwise have been more or less lost, and that would have been a shame.
Hopefully the Planet Stories line will return in time, bringing back more old classics.