cover image In the Upper Room and Other Likely Stori

In the Upper Room and Other Likely Stori

Terry Bisson. Forge, $24.95 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-312-87404-9

Bisson offers up a wide-ranging second story collection (after Bears Discover Fire) of cutting-edge SF. The future of virtual reality comes under his gaze here and there--as in his Orwellian ""An Office Romance,"" in which, for office temp Ken678, even a furtive love affair with co-worker Mary97 is less compelling than the reassuring predictability of Microserf Office 6.9. Or the title piece of the collection, which offers week-long online vacations to the lonely, courtesy of Inward Bound, and for one pair of lovers, virtual eternity together. On an equally sinister note, ""Macs"" presents the ultimate Swiftian solution for victims of terrorism, with the opportunity to legally murder a cloned copy of the terrorist who killed their loved one (""Mac"" for copies of ""the real McCoy). In a lighter vein, there's ""The Edge of the Universe,"" a tale delivered with a sugary dose of Southern charm that shows how a lovesick law student reverses universal entropy through one good whack with a big stick--or ""an anti-entropic field reversal device."" Those who relish presidential embarrassment will savor ""Tell them they are full of sh*t and they should f*ck off,"" in which an obtuse future chief exec somehow manages to overlook a first contact with an annoyed group of aliens. In its promo, the publisher compares Bisson to Vonnegut and Harlan Ellison; that's not too much of a stretch. (May)