Neal Barrett, Jr., Author TRAUMA JUNKIE: Memoirs of an Emergency Flight Nurse

Despite the inevitable dated characters and attitudes (women reduced to minor roles and men generally oozing testosterone), the themes of these 12 vintage stories mostly arise from the pure heart of speculative SF. Slice-of-life cop story "Nightbeat" echoes the rough language play of Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange, while goofy alien dialect figures in the amusing "Made in Archerius." Voice is the entire story in "Happy New Year, Hal." Predictable Twilight Zonish twists adorn "The Flying Stutzman," about an all-too-stereotypical traveling salesman doomed to endless motion, and "Grandfather Pelts," in which an intergalactic fur smuggler gets more than he bargained for. "Starpath" is an old-fashioned space opera with a modern sensibility. "To Plant a Seed," a traditional, hard SF puzzle story, works despite its annoyingly dated female character. Logic puzzles are also at the heart of the clever "Survival Course" and the drolly humorous "The Stentorii Luggage." The most thoughtful stories in the collection present uncomfortable truths without flinching, such as "Hero," a sharply observed tale about human veterans of an alien war too distant from Earth. "A Walk on Toy" likewise examines the tenuous ties of humanity between Earth-dwellers and far-flung colonists, while "The Talking" overturns the usual SF trope of information setting one free by showing a society where it does the exact opposite. Barrett's fans will welcome this collection, as will readers who enjoy science fiction from the '60s and '70s. (Apr. 16)

Reviewed on: 04/02/2001
Release date: 05/01/2001
Genre: Fiction
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