cover image Pawn’s Gambit: And Other Stratagems

Pawn’s Gambit: And Other Stratagems

Timothy Zahn. Open Road, $14.99 ISBN 978-1-5040-1622-3

Hard SF readers and long-time fans of Zahn will appreciate this collection of 15 short fiction works from his early writing career. Like many other hard SF writers, Zahn (Cobra Outlaw) excels at old-school puzzle stories in which a technological tweak saves the day, such as “Protocol” and the title story, as well as the space opera-flavored “The Price of Survival” and the Hugo-winning novella “Cascade Point.” Flashing back to the 1980s, stories such as “The Giftie Gie Us,” “The President’s Doll,” and “Old-Boy Network” mix the supernatural with SF settings. “Hitmen—See Murderers,” with its dependence on the Yellow Pages, and “Chem Lab 301,” with its college students commandeering expensive high-tech lab equipment to manufacture street drugs, demonstrate how easy it is for formerly futuristic premises to fall prey to technological innovation. Zahn twists classic fantasy tropes into modern plots in “The Ring,” “Clean Slate,” and “Trollbridge.” Several stories include author afterwords, leaving the reader wondering why Zahn didn’t provide comments for all of the works included. Nevertheless, this collection will illuminate Zahn’s early career for readers. (Jan.)