cover image Christmas Forever

Christmas Forever

. Tor Books, $24.95 (425pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85576-5

Hartwell has compiled three previous anthologies of Christmas stories ( Christmas Ghosts and Spirits of Christmas , which combined reprints and original material, and Christmas Stars , a collection of reprinted science fiction tales). Here he gathers 28 all-new science fiction narratives tied in some ways to Yuletide. While the selections are uneven in quality, many stories work quite well with the holiday theme. Gene Wolfe offers perhaps the book's best entry, ``And When They Appear,'' in which a young boy's tragic circumstances turn worse on what should be a happy holiday eve; Brian Stableford's ``Another Bad Day in Bedlam'' is a solid tale of a genetically engineered Second Coming; ``Pal o' Mine,'' by Charles de Lint, suffers a little from the author's characteristic sentimentality, but its neat magical twist and a level of more genuine feeling make it quite moving; and Sarah Smith's ``Christmas at the Edge'' evokes the best of the Christmas spirit in a near-future Boston that's sinking below sea level. Damon Knight, Dave Wolverton, Janet Kagan and the team of James P. Blaylock and Tim Powers likewise deliver good yarns. The powerful effect of some of these tales is somewhat diluted by an array of lighthearted pieces, and some of them fail utterly, but there are enough good ones to make this a good choice for fireside holiday reading. (Nov.)