The Best of Neal Barrett, Jr.
This retrospective collection from Barrett, who was recently named author emeritus by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, includes 28 short stories with original publication dates that span almost half a century, both following the development of a master wordsmith and chronicling the evolution of speculative fiction as it blurs into the mainstream. The passage of time has dated some of the selections, but their thematic impact is still as powerful as ever, from the flawless novella “To Plant a Seed” (1963), about a warden stationed on a desert planet who must decide whether to intervene when an intelligent race of tunnel dwellers appears headed toward self-destruction, to the darkly comedic “Tourists” (2004), which follows a busload of sightseers as they visit Hell. Readers who enjoy insightful and visionary fiction will cherish Barrett’s oblique writing style, as will anyone who has an interest in the history of the genre. (Oct.)