Apostrophes & Apocalypses: The First Collection from One of the Most Acclaimed SF Writers of the Decade

John Barnes, Author
John Barnes, Author Tor Books $24.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-312-86147-6
Reviewed on: 11/02/1998
Release date: 11/01/1998
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-312-85069-2
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In the dozen stories presented here, Barnes (Mother of Storms; A Million Open Doors) deals with social mechanization, nonhuman intelligence, extraterrestrials, the biology and politics of the far future and diverse extrapolations of modern science--the kind of SF that defines the genre for many readers. In an unusual fantasy piece he even analyzes goblin magic, quantifying the relation of pain and power. Not a few of the works are ""trunk stories"" and, strangely, Barnes, in brief introductions, variously apologizes or refuses to apologize for the deficiencies that made them unsalable. There are several cautionary tales about the mind-strangling tyranny of a future theocracy and some brave forays into sexuality, including a future therapy for sexual compulsive disorder and an instance of gay interspecies sex. That typical SF hazard, a daunting proportion of information to plot, creeps into several stories. But Barnes's canvas is often exhilaratingly broad; he can sketch the genesis and decline of planetary civilizations in three or four pages--and be funny at the same time. His classic essay, ""How to Build a Future,"" is reprinted in these pages as well; it's a juggling act of rigorous number-crunching and the baldest guesswork. There are seven other short essays, too often smug, pompous even, and not so carefully reasoned, on topics ranging from pedagogy to genre criticism. (Dec.)
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