cover image Past Lives Present Tr

Past Lives Present Tr

Various. Ace Books, $13 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-441-00649-6

Having cooked up a way of reconstituting the dead from their DNA to merge them with living humans, Scarborough (The Healer's War) gathered 14 fellow fantasy and SF writers to imagine the consequences. The perennially popular Kristine Kathryn Rusch is among them, as are the prolific Jerry Oltion and the meticulous and writerly R. Garcia y Robertson. There is some lovely prose here. Gary A. Braunbeck's ""Who Am a Passer By"" abounds with passion and poetry. Carole Nelson Douglas, invoking Florence Nightingale, crafts an interesting composition through clever jump-cuts and ellipses. Scarborough's setup is a fertile one for SF fabulation, and there are three or four different approaches represented here, stylistically (e.g., monologues by one or both symbionts or the viewpoint of an interested third party) and thematically (e.g., the procedure as therapy or as a selfish plot). The conceit becomes a bit tedious by the ninth or 10th application, though. Several of the stories end abruptly in predictable moralisms, the conclusions logical but emotionally undeserved. Most are marred to some degree by awkward floods of facts that derail the narrative or violate the believability of the character; perhaps this is due to the preponderance of historical themes, requiring elucidations of actual circumstances. For the many SF fans more interested in ideas than in stylistic virtues, this will be no obstacle to the book's enjoyment. (Nov.)