. Tor Books, $27.95 (560pp) ISBN 978-0-312-87811-5
Evoking the Golden Age breakthrough in the pages of Astounding Science Fiction during the 1940s, Harlan Ellison in his preface declares the present-day as the ""Golden Age of Australian science fiction."" This anthology of contemporary speculative writing from down underD200,000 words of original fiction with an added 20,000 words of introductory notes and author afterwordsDattempts to raise the bar to that standard. Previously published by HarperCollins Australia (1998), this mammoth volume won two Australian Science Fiction Achievement Awards (Best Artwork, Best Anthology) and topped that by also winning the World Fantasy Award. Not all the 31 tales take place down in Australia: Isabelle Carmody finds poetry in Prague's Kafkaesque labyrinths as ""The Man Who Lost His Shadow"" learns ""it is we who need our shadows, not they us."" In Aaron Stearns's ""The Third Rail,"" NYC subway paranoia erupts into horror. George Turner's 1997 death cut short work on his novella about eternal life, so essays by Bruce Gillespie and Judith Raphael Buckrich explore possible paths of Turner's unfinished work. The stories, already surfacing in other anthologies and novel expansions, are strong throughout. Comparisons with the ""New Wave"" experiments in Ellison's trendsetting Dangerous Visions (1967) are inevitable, and Ellison sees this book as a similar groundbreaker, a ""huge testament to the new order of things literary in this genre."" This is a potent package, and even readers skeptical of all the hype won't be disappointed. (Feb. 23) Forecast: Word of mouth, previous glowing reviews and a shelf of impressive awards all bode well, while the timing couldn't be better, as CBS's Survivor: The Australian Outback, kicks off right after the Super Bowl. Expect significant interest.
Reviewed on: 02/01/2001