Dozois, Gardner (ed.). Time Travelers from Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine.

NY: Ace Books, 1989.

I’m kind of a sucker for time-travel stories (what happens to our world if you go back and change something, etc.) but I’m afraid much of this anthology really doesn’t work for me.

Asimov’s Science Fiction, one of the few surviving pulps, has been around since 1977 and attempted, in its earlier years, to hew to a higher literary standard than its competitors. This is not a bad thing, but in terms of the time-travel theme, it means a tendency to abstract, “experimental” writing rather than puzzle/adventure or problem-solving stories.

Of the eleven stories included (all originally published 1976-86), the best is the often-reprinted “Sailing to Byzantium” by Robert Silverberg, in which a man of our own time (maybe) travels somewhat listlessly in the far future from one urban simulacrum to another in the company of a never-aging woman. It’s a lovely piece of writing and there’s some great imagery, but it isn’t “time travel.” “Air Raid” by John Varley was the basis of his novel Millennium, and while it actually does involve time travel, it’s always struck me as very depressing. “The Small Stones of Tu Fu” is just Brian Aldiss being poetic without really saying very much. Ian Watson is a good writer, usually, but “Ghost Lecturer,” about resurrecting medieval and ancient scientists and the humorous results, just doesn’t work. I like Lew Shiner (one of several Texans in this volume) and “Twilight Time” is a pretty good story about a young man from an unpleasant future searching for personal meaning in his own past. Steve Utley’s “Time and Hagakure,” on the other hand, is rather confused and isn’t really time travel, either. “The Pure Product,” by John Kessel, is a wild tale about an narcissistic nihilist; interesting but kind of out of control. Lucius Shepard’s “Aymara,” which is quite good, reminded me in tone of his Life During Wartime.

And that’s about it. This is one of those collections about which the best one can say is “meh.”

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Published in: on 9 July 2013 at 12:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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