cover image Meeting in Infinity

Meeting in Infinity

John Kessel. Arkham House Publishers, $24.95 (309pp) ISBN 978-0-87054-164-3

Kessel is hardly prolific--since 1980 he has produced perhaps two dozen short stories, written one novel ( Good News from Outer Space ) and coauthored another ( Freedom Beach , with James Patrick Kelly)--but his work always has a powerful emotional kick and a sharp postmodern edge. This first collection of his stories showcases his talents in wildly diverse forms. ``The Big Dream'' neatly critiques the disturbing subtexts of hard-boiled detective fiction by presenting a bitter, frustrated Raymond Chandler who imposes his fevered visions on the people around him. ``The Pure Product'' features thoroughly amoral time-travelers from the future who are seeking thrills in the present day. A young stockbroker finds himself inexplicably transported into Moby-Dick , as a deckhand on Ahab's Pequod, in the Nebula Award-winning ``Another Orphan.'' The brief but powerful ``Mrs. Shummel Exits a Winner'' suggests that sometimes dreams are better not attained. The final tale, ``Buffalo,'' best epitomizes Kessel's grace and sensitivity: in it he tells of his father's meeting with H. G. Wells, ``which never took place,'' and along the way illuminates the complex moral forces that affect working men like his father. Witty, daring and intelligent, Kessel produces some of the best science fiction in the genre. (Aug.)