cover image The Starry Rift

The Starry Rift

James Tiptree, JR.. St. Martin's Press, $14.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-312-93744-7

The unsettling quality one expects of Tiptree is immediately evident in the sequences framing these three stories that share the background of the pseudonymous novelist's Brightness Falls from the Air. In a prologue, a librarian in a great galactic library and two students refer to that novel, marveling how wonderful, moving and insightful the tales are. Readers who proceed in spite of that clear warning of authorial self-indulgence will find that each piece in this new work revolves around an act of self-sacrifice so outrageous and weepy they're candidates for the Fannie Hurst/Steven Spielberg league: a 15-year-old girl becomes host to an intelligent but parasitic new species and commits suicide to protect humanity; a grizzled war veteran rescues an old lovenow a big starfrom pirates and then nobly fades away; and several deathsincluding that of a teddy bear-like simpleton, all trust and goodnessprevent a misunderstood first contact from turning into a disastrous interspecies war. In all likelihood, this is destined for the same popularity as Tiptree's other work but readers must be prepared to turn down their critical facilities and get out their handkerchiefs. (July 1)