Books by Martin H. Greenberg

Released: April 1, 2009

"The volume closes with Walsh's irrelevant essay on Doyle's anti-Irish streak; Christopher Redmond's account of the author's first visit to America; and Doyle's own speech 'The Romance of America,' which sets a stylistic standard no other contribution can match."
Think the Great Detective never set foot in the United States? Think again. Read full book review >
Released: June 15, 2008

"Since the collection depends heavily on brand names, 2007 can't even be described as what baseball managers call a building year. Wait till next year is more like it."
The latest installment of the annual anthology suggests that it hasn't been a vintage year for the mystery short story. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 16, 2007

"Still, six out of 21 isn't bad."
Five of this year's crop are first-rate, one is truly superb—and the rest? Well, never mind those. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 2006

"The cleverest stories are by Breen and Wheat, the edgiest by Estleman. A prize should be reserved for the anthologist who comes up with a higher concept than this one."
Finally, a collection of new Sherlock Holmes pastiches based on a promising idea: conflicts between the great detective's super-rational nature and hints of the supernatural. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 2006

"Also appearing: Charlie Stella's gay priests, Val McDermid's non-award-winning author, Laura Lippman's shoeshine man and lesser entries by Francis M. Nevins, Martyn Waits, Joyce Carol Oates and many, many more."
Skip the extensive but mostly superfluous introductory essays on the year 2004 in mystery and dive into the generous and much more compelling evidence. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 2002

"Thirty-nine stories that are consistently fine, though not superfine."
If 2000 was, on the evidence of Gorman and Greenberg's previous behemoth, a banner year for crime fiction, 2001 was, as baseball managers say, a "building year." At least this year's annual shows no clear sense of direction (the seven prefaces surveying the year in mystery fiction around the world amount to little more than cheerleading and lists) and no star entries. The keynote instead is professional proficiency, from S.J. Rozan's trap for a Chinatown con man to Clark Howard's race to stop a hit in Disneyland to Kristine Kathryn Rusch's blind date turned stalker to Lawrence Block's fable-like riffs on greed. Like Otto Penzler (p. 1177), Gorman and Greenberg have cherry-picked other anthologies (though not, unlike Penzler, anthologies they edited), plucking four reliables from The Mysterious Press Anniversary Anthology, three from Death by Horoscope, and two each from Malice Domestic 10, Women Before the Bench, Murder Through the Ages, and Murder in Baker Street. The most offbeat offerings are four German short-shorts (their translators unbilled) by Wolfgang Burger, Stephan Rykena, Billie Rubin, and Tatjana Kruse; the closest thing to a trend is new takes on classic tales (Edward D. Hoch turns "The Yellow Wallpaper" into an impossible disappearance, Lauren Henderson remakes the film noir The Dark Mirror, Carolyn Wheat and Carolyn Hart both have a crack at Strangers on a Train), and the more general tendency to pour a novel's worth of experience into a short story (Joseph Hansen, Brendan DuBois, Joyce Carol Oates). Read full book review >
Released: Dec. 1, 2001

"The only disappointment? Those introductory essays, most of them little more than graded lists of the year's crime fiction from Canada, Australia, Germany, and the UK. How about skipping them next year and including one of editor Gorman's peerless stories instead?"
For their second installment of the series that began last year, veteran anthologists Gorman and Greenberg have pulled out all the stops in an ambitious attempt to produce the definitive yearbook of the short mystery. The 41 stories, all first published within the past year, are bookended by eight introductory essays surveying crime fiction in 2000 and Pete Hamill's New Yorker salute to Ed McBain. The taboo against duplicate stories by the same authors has been lifted, allowing two apiece for the richly deserving Jan Burke, Mat Coward, Brendan DuBois, Edward D. Hoch, Clark Howard, and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Unlike the rival Houghton Mifflin series, edited this year by Lawrence Block (p. 1164), which seeks out new voices on the genre's cutting edge, Gorman and Greenberg keep generally within its conventional boundaries, and the contributors here (most of them, despite the title's global aspirations, American or British) are an honor roll of familiar names: Doug Allyn, Robert Barnard, Joseph Hansen, Gillian Linscott, Stuart M. Kaminsky, Peter Lovesey, John Lutz, Ed McBain, Joyce Carol Oates, Nancy Pickard, Bill Pronzini, Peter Robinson, S.J. Rozan, Donald E. Westlake, and, yes, Lawrence Block. The stories range in quality from above average to superb; indeed the biggest mystery is how a single year could have produced a bumper crop of so many outstanding tales. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2001

Now that he's survived 60 stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, countless parodies and pastiches, and even two Christmases (Greenberg and Lellenberg's More Holmes for the Holidays, 1999, etc.), what new worlds are left for Sherlock Holmes to conquer? Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2001

"LookingglassssalggnikooL pleasuresserusaelp."
Brightly conceived, even though the most widely known alternative history tale of modern times is ignored, James Cameron's Terminator II. (In it, an android comes back from the future, destroys two computer chips, averts a future war with machines, and subverts his own existence—so does his alternative history still take place?) Reviewing the subgenre, Turtledove points to L. Sprague de Camp's classic Lest Darkness Fall (read by this Kirkus reviewer in the early '40s when it first appeared) as the gene pool for crossover SF/alternative history tales. (In de Camp, a modern archaeologist goes back to the fall of Rome and tries to avert the Dark Ages.) Mainstream novels include Robert Harris's bestseller Fatherland (Hitler wins and it's now 1959). In this new collection, in Jack Chalker's "Dance Band on the Titanic," a guy gets the best job in the world—on a monstrously huge ferry that's really several ferries making runs in alternative worlds to lovely alternative ports; the trouble is, there's this girl who keeps jumping to her death in the prop wash, run after run. In Bruce Sterling and Lewis Shiner's "Mozart in Mirrorshades," two buddies from Realtime pal around with hipster Mozart in Salzburg. Allen M. Steele produces hard science fiction and so is a natural to tell the true story of "The Death of Captain Future," Edmond Hamilton's hero from 1940s pulps: an inspired satire sprinkled with marvelous excerpts from Captain Future novels. Not to be missed: Kim Stanley Robinson's "The Lucky Strike," Poul Anderson's "Eutopia," and Turtledove's own "Islands in the Sea." Read full book review >
Released: July 1, 2001

The biggest revelation of these five pulp novelettes, 1938-77, and Harry Whittington's 1953 short novel So Dead My Love is how much more their common voices and formulas, often displayed in apprentice work, make then sound like each other than like the eventually famous authors—John D. MacDonald (a fraternity killer), Lawrence Block (a stag-party killer), Donald E. Westlake (a sad, crimeless anti-romance)—you thought you knew. The two exceptions are James M. Cain, whose tricky valentine "The Embezzler" is vintage Cain, and Mickey Spillane, who, despite the absence of Mike Hammer from "Everybody's Watching Me," sounds, for better or worse, exactly like Spillane. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 11, 1999

Whatever the reason—maybe something off in the mince pie or the plum pudding—these 11 Sherlockian Yuletides tap the same vein as Holmes for the Holidays (1996), but to less effect. Most of the stories rely on clever concepts unsuccessfully carried out. It's nice to see Holmes reeling in celebrity clients like Oscar Wilde (Bill Crider), Charles Darwin (Jon L. Breen), O.Henry (Daniel Stashower), and Tiny Tim (Carolyn Wheat), but the mysteries they offer are anemic or trivial, as are other routine cases by Peter Lovesey, Barbara Paul, and Loren D. Estleman. No one gets Watson's voice quite right, though Anne Perry and L.B. Greenwood offer acceptably Victorian substitutes. Edward D. Hoch's Erskine Childers fantasy is the most ingenious of the bunch, and Tanith Lee's family curse, though overlong and uneven, throws a challenging new light on the great man. On the evidence, however, the editors might consider giving Holmes next Christmas off. Read full book review >
NIGHTMARE TOWN by Dashiell Hammett
Released: Sept. 4, 1999

This collection of 20 stories, most of them out of print for many years, is must reading for hardboiled fans. It doesn't matter a bit that they don't live up to the uncritical claims Hammett biographer William F. Nolan's introduction makes for them, though it would be nice if Hammett handled the heroine's viewpoint in "Ruffian's Wife" with the same cool efficiency as the hero's viewpoint in "One Hour," or made the O. Henryish "Second-Story Angel" into as sharp an anecdote as the noir western "The Man Who Killed Dan Odams." What matters is that the editors have preserved between one set of covers all three Sam Spade short stories, seven heretofore uncollected ones starring the Continental Op, a generous sampling of Hammett's uneven non-series work, and a pair of headliners: the title novella, a fast-moving ode to the city man stranded in the middle of nowhere, and "The First Thin Man," a 50-page fragment that shows Clyde Wynant's murder hooked up to a completely different plot without a trace of Nick or Nora Charles. An answered prayer for Hammett fans, and a revelation for any serious reader of detective fiction—even if the revelation is often of how hard Hammett must have worked to spin his Black Mask straw into the gold of Red Harvest and The Maltese Falcon. (Book-of-the-Month Club/Quality Paperback Book Club alternate selection) Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 1999

Not content with its dominion over the present (Cat Crimes for the Holidays, 1997, etc.), the master race now extends its reach back through history from ancient Egypt to the mid-20th century. The 21 original contributions are alternately gloomy (Tom Piccirilli's Poe pastiche), sprightly (Bill Crider's Hollywood idyll), charming (Gary A. Braunbeck's tale of a widowed mail-order bride), giddy (Elizabeth Foxwell's fantasia on Oscar Wilde themes), and historically doughty (Doug Allyn's medieval balladeer turned detective, Barbara Collins's investigation into the murder of Carry Nation's cat, Jon L. Breen's reminiscence of the silent-film era). Since they lack any considerable mystery, suspense, or ingenuity on the part of the human characters, they're best read as a triumphal procession of felines through the ages rather than as a series of crime stories that happen to feature cats. The one exception is Carole Nelson Douglas's evocation of a late Pharaoh's mummified cat that won't stay dead—a story that packs two teasing mysteries and some heads-up detection into the space of a sarcophagus. Now that cats have turned up everywhere from the Scottish Highlands to yesterday's war-torn Beirut, expect next year's dispatch to come from the moons of Jupiter. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1998

Professionalism rather than originality is the keynote of this seventh annual collection. Fans of John Harvey, John Lutz, Walter Mosley, Joyce Carol Oates, and Donald E. Westlake won't be disappointed by their highly typical, if not outstanding, stories. Jeffery Deaver and Ed Bryant provide two shivery tales balanced by a pair of shockingly funny hospital anecdotes by DeLoris Stanton Forbes and Carole Nelson Douglas. No one will be surprised to see that Lawrence Block's Edgar—winning "Keller on the Spot" and Reginald Hill's Gold Dagger—winning "On the Psychiatrist's Couch" are the strongest entries. The supporting cast—Bill Crider, Carolyn G. Hart, Stuart Kaminsky, Marcia Muller, Nancy Pickard, Carolyn Wheat, et al.—is as varied and reliable as you could ask. And the whole package is wrapped up with the same panache, from Jon L. Breen's spirited Introduction to Edward D. Hoch's comprehensive Bibliography. Even though Hoch's Necrology lists mercifully few household names, you can't help feeling on the evidence presented that this hasn't been a banner year for short stories of crime. Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 1998

Most fairy tales are already so full of innocent victims, monstrous malefactors, and sudden violence that it doesn't take much of a push to send them over the edge into the realm of crime fiction, as in this overstuffed collection of 24 brand-new stories. Some of the authors go it straight, changing only the milieu of Rapunzel (Brendan DuBois's imprisoned computer programmer), Hansel and Gretel (Janet Dawson's L.A. street kids), the Snow Queen (Sharyn McCrumb's cocaine-addicted Kay), the Brave Little Tailor (Les Roberts's costume designer), or the Twelve Dancing Princesses (Anne Wingate's Mafia daughters). Bill Crider enters a plea on behalf of Red Riding Hood's wolf, and Gillian Roberts and William L. DeAndrea ask what happens after happily ever after. The more adventurous entries range farther afield. Joan Hess's Snow White carries the Seven Dwarfs in her head as multiple personalities; Elizabeth Engstorm's Hansel and Gretel fall prey to a fiendishly cold-blooded kidnaping scheme; Jane Haddam reimagines Rapunzel as sordidly compelling pathology; and co-editor Gorman turns "Gossip Wolf and the Fox" into a vintage small-town nightmare. Jon L. Breen, Simon Clark, Mat Coward, Gary A. Braunbeck, Edward D. Hoch, John Lutz, John Helfers, Simon Brett, Peter Crowther, Audrey Peterson, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and Doug Allyn round out a circle whose provocative concept makes it more satisfying as a whole than in any particular story. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 3, 1997

Nineteen new stories commemorating not just the December holidays but a veritable calendar of cats, from New Year's (Barbara Paul) to Martin Luther King Day (Jon L. Breen), Valentine's Day (Jeremiah Healy), Presidents' Day (Peter Crowther and Stewart von Allmen), St. Patrick's Day (John Lutz, J.N. Williamson), Easter (Bill Crider), Mother's Day (Christine Matthews and Robert J. Randisi), Memorial Day (Marlys Millhiser), Father's Day (Richard T. Chizmar), Independence Day (Jan Grape), Halloween (Carole Nelson Douglas), Veterans' Day (Tracy Knight, Gary A. Braunbeck), Thanksgiving (Barbara Collins), Hanukkah (Morris Hershman), Christmas (Graham Masterton), and even Boxing Day (Nick Hassam); Nancy Pickard's cute old-time anecdote isn't tied to any special day. Sadly, linking cats to unexpected holidays taxes most contributors' ingenuity to the limit. Lutz's and Chizmar's and Crider's stories are mere sketches; Braunbeck's and Healy's and Millhiser's feature predictably avenging felines. Except for Masterton's neatly compressed whodunit, even stories that begin promisingly (e.g., Hassam's tale of a drug-courier cat tied up in quarantine) are woefully undeveloped. As in earlier entries in this long-running series (Cat Crimes Takes a Vacation, 1995, etc.), love of cats shines through a lot more clearly than love of mystery or suspense. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1997

Regional humorist Hess (The Maggody Militia, p. 175, etc.) joins series editors Gorman and Greenberg for this sixth annual roundup. Though the numbers of original collections helpfully listed by Jon L. Breen and Edward D. Hoch suggest that it's been a bumper year for short mystery fiction, a few formulas (the schemer outschemed, the just vengeance, the psychopathology of everyday life) predominate, so that the keynote here is professional accomplishment—reliable entertainers like Ruth Rendell, Marcia Muller, Ed McBain, Reginald Hill, Donald E. Westlake, and Sara Paretsky buff their wares to a high sheen- -without any particular originality. The exceptions, as always, are worth the money: Walter Satterthwait's secret-ingredient cassoulet, David Corn's macabre fictional confessional, Alan Russell's prison bridal tale, Bill Pronzini's paranoid suburban vignette. But the best story of all, S.J. Rozan's inner-city whodunit ``Hoops,'' is in many ways the most traditional. Clearly the best-edited annual, though not as distinctive in its choices as its latest competitor (see below). Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1997

Or American Digest, since editors Gorman and Greenberg (Love Kills, p. 595, etc.), joined by veteran Pronzini (A Wasteland of Strangers, p. 914, etc.), contend that the true high-water mark of short noir fiction was the period from 1950 to 1970, after Black Mask and its ilk had already been killed off by inexpensive paperbacks and TV, and digests like Manhunt and Pursuit reigned supreme. In evidence they offer a monster collection of 35 stories running the gamut from ironic anecdotes (Evan Hunter, Mickey Spillane, Donald E. Westlake, John Lutz, James Reasoner, Frederic Brown, John Jakes) to hard-boiled whodunits (Marcia Muller, Robert J. Randisi, Richard S. Prather, Craig Rice) to substantial novellas (Talmage Powell, Norbert Davis, Leigh Brackett, Richard Matheson). The real revelation is how many of these alleged actioners (like those by Vin Packer, David Goodis, Wade Miller, and Herbert Kastle) work most effectively as mood pieces in the manner of Poe, their great progenitor. A bargain—only $12.95 for 560 pages of the stuff your mother warned you to keep away from. Read full book review >
LOVE KILLS by Ed Gorman
Released: May 1, 1997

Not only does it kill, but it makes you feel really creepy first—whether your pleasure is loving homicide (Sandra Scoppettone, Richard T. Chizmar), romantic betrayal (John Lutz, Jerry Sykes, Dorothy B. Hughes, editor Gorman), sour marriages (Bill Pronzini, Peter Crowther, Ron Goulart, Joe Hensley, Bill Crider), hints of the supernatural (Edward Bryant, Larry Segriff, Barbara Collins, Greg Cox), sexual taboos (Morris Hershman, Marthayn Pelegrimas, Richard Deming, Jonathan Craig), stalkers and other obsessives (Nancy Pickard, Marcia Muller, Brian Lawrence, Maxim Jakubowski, Lawrence Block, Ruth Rendell), vengeance served cold (James Reasoner, Max Allan Collins), or just plain bad relationships (Evan Hunter, Jim Combs, Donald Westlake). The stories—united only by their bleak take on love and their use of violence to release the often unbearable tension—range from 1953 through 1996; but all of them are spiritual descendants of the '50s pulps. Guaranteed to make you think twice about the person next to you at the bar—or on the other side of the connubial bed. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 1997

Sleuths eager for less formulaic company than Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys will enjoy this pulse-quickening second collection of collaborations between writers and children (Great Writers and Kids Write Spooky Stories, 1995, not reviewed). A brief introduction by Morgan and Weinberg defines the elements of a good mystery, as well as its many sub-genres (the cozy, the police procedural, etc.), then the fun begins as bodies start to drop. Sharyn McCrumb and her children choose the unlikely setting of an old-age home for a compelling mystery about the disappearance of a child years ago that continues to haunt one of the elderly patients; readers will love the McCrumbs' wry tone, the crusty but endearing geriatric characters, and the memorable and disturbing ending. A similar sense of the sinister charges Ed and son Joe Gorman's tale of the inexplicable rise to popularity of a high school nerd. Scott Turow and daughter Eve offer more of a fairy tale than a whodunnit—a mystery concerning the human heart. Stuart Kaminsky and daughter Lucy play a varying riff on a family's twisted relations, where a mother's seeming devotion leads to the permanent damage of her son. Whether readers go through these contributions front-to-back or pick and choose among them, the collection provides both an opportunity and a motive for diversion. (Short stories. 8+) Read full book review >
HOLMES FOR THE HOLIDAYS by Martin H. Greenberg
Released: Nov. 1, 1996

If the prospect of 14 pastiches all featuring Christmas and Sherlock Holmes makes you queasy, take heart: Everyone involved produces professional, if not exactly inspired, work. It's a treat to see Irene Adler's chronicler, Carole Nelson Douglas, present a jewel theft from Watson's point of view for a change, and her mastery of Watson's voice is rivaled by that of Reginald Hill (Holmes and Watson invited to witness a Roman execution) and Jon L. Breen (a talking dog). Anne Perry begins the collection on a suitably atmospheric note; Loren D. Estleman and Bill Crider put two different spins on the Scrooge affair; Edward D. Hoch's blackmailer puts the bite on Lewis Carroll; John Stoessel, in a deceptively clever puzzle, has Watson solve a case (the stabbing of Inspector Lestrade) on his own; and Gillian Linscott's Swiss holiday shows Holmes and Watson from a charmingly novel point of view. The most elaborate cases, however, are William DeAndrea's stolen Christmas tree and Carolyn Wheat's richly detailed salute to ``The Five Orange Pips.'' No entry threatens the preeminence of ``The Blue Carbuncle.'' But readers who find Holmes here repeatedly more impressive at tossing off casual inferences than at solving cases should consult Conan Doyle, in whose hands he often behaves much the same. Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1996

Alternate-world yarns exert an endless fascination: for one, because other worlds are scientifically respectable (modern particle theory admits the possibility); for another, the godlike power offered by historical what-ifs (for instance, what-if the Nazis had won WW II? Or what-if Christ had never been born? Examples of both are to be found here). Anyhow, these 14 tales, 1968-92, include several famous entries. Fritz Leiber's waggish ``Catch That Zeppelin!'' features Hitler as an airship salesman. In Kim Stanley Robinson's ``The Lucky Strike,'' the atom-bombing of Japan doesn't go exactly as planned. And Eisenhower plays clarinet with Louis Armstrong while Senator E.A. Presley applauds, in Howard Waldrop's amusing ``Ike at the Mike.'' Read full book review >
DINOSAURS by Martin H. Greenberg
Released: Jan. 30, 1996

Fourteen more or less archosaurian variations, 195094, compiled by the veteran anthologizer. Familiar to dinosaur buffs and science fiction readers alike will be such famous old tales as Ray Bradbury's ``The Fog Horn'' (sea monster falls in love with a lighthouse); Isaac Asimov's ``Day of the Hunters'' (warm-blooded, intelligent dinosaurs—written, astoundingly, in 1950!); Arthur C. Clarke's ``Time's Arrow'' (fossil hounds chased by a carnosaur); and L. Sprague de Camp's Mesozoic safari, ``A Gun for Dinosaur.'' Almost as well known, if less venerable, are Edward Bryant's ``Strata'' (Mesozoic ghosts); Howard Waldrop's Indians and dinosaurs vs. soldiers and settlers in the ``Green Brother''; Robert Silverberg's dinosaur renaissance, ``Our Lady of the Sauropods,'' and—towering above everything else here—Poul Anderson's chilling time travel/nuclear war yarn, ``Wildcat.'' Of the more recent entries, Sharon N. Farber's splendid commentary on ``bone warriors'' O.C. Marsh and Edward D. Cope will amuse paleontological cognoscenti; the others—from Patricia Cadigan, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Robert J. Sawyer, and Harry Turtledove— look somewhat pallid by comparison. Still, Anderson's tremendous yarn by itself is probably worth the price of admission, while the other oldies cast a nostalgic glow. Read full book review >
Released: Dec. 16, 1995

From anthologists Friesner (Alien Pregnant by Elvis) and Greenberg (Sisters of the Night, p. 1046, etc.): an inspired collection of 32 stories tying art to vampirism, or the reverse, the arts being painting, music, film, sculpture, dance, writing, and such special exhibits as window glazing, weaving (with bloodstained flax), puppetry, architecture, collage, jewelry- making, and guerrilla mural art with spray cans. The contributors here are largely unknown, but, even so, the standouts are too many to praise. Fresh indeed is P.D. Cacek's ``Yrena,'' about a seductive, homeless child vampire, freezing in the snow following the October Revolution. She's taken in by a former Leningrad painter to the Czar, now destitute but for his relatives, whom he feeds day by day to Yrena while he paints her haunting beauty. Don't miss Benjamin Adams's ``The Frieze of Life,'' about tortured Norwegian painter Edvard Munch's insanity and his famous painting of The Vampire. Munch re-creates this female form obsessively throughout his life, being the unwitting slave of Melpomene, the Greek Muse of tragedy, who has chosen Munch to be her personal artist. Also admirable is Susan Shwartz's ``Dramaturge,'' about Gonzago, the Player King, and his family of actor vampires who've arrived at Elsinore only to find everyone dead and Hamlet buried. So they dig him up, feed him vampire blood, and let him join the dead Ophelia, herself a vampire in great disrepair. Pamela D. Hodgson's ``The Age of Maturity'' tells of Auguste Rodin's mistresses and how he steals souls to put into his sculptures. Lisa Lepovetsky's ``Pas du Mort'' paints a New Orleans ballet dancer who gets the inspiration for her Vampire Dance in a cemetery, only to be so successful at it that she attracts real vampires. Breathless tales of the blood-inspired creative process that really suck you in. Many loud wingflaps. Read full book review >
DARK LOVE by Nancy A. Collins
Released: Nov. 1, 1995

Twenty-two delvings into horror, lust, madness, flying blood, and defiled flesh. Anthologists Collins (the paperback Wild Blood, etc.), Kramer, and Greenberg kick off their album of original tales with Stephen King's delightful study in grisliness, ``Lunch at the Gotham Cafe''about a broker whose wife has left him and who meets her and her therapist in a Manhattan eatery for lunch and talk; there, the three are mistaken by a nutty mÉitre d' as the people whose dog keeps him awake all night, following which the bedeviled fellow goes berserk, pulls out a butcher knife and works them over. The spillage climaxes wryly as the wife fails to mellow, though her husband has saved her life. The late Michael O'Donoghue follows with his smiley little filmscript about ``The Psycho'' who gets up in the morning, goes out and kills broadly, then returns to bed after a hard day's work as his victims one by one arise from death, this, after all, being Valentine's Day. Kathy Koja's ``Pas de Deux'' tells of the hunger and love of an anorexic ballerina who uses up endless young pickups, without condoms, and dances ever more blissfully for them, as she waits for the prince her mother told her would come. Standouts are ``Going Under,'' Ramsay Campbell's brilliant story of a jogger going mad and being crushed in a tunnel full of other joggers; George C. Chesbro's tale of David Koresh's gasoline raptures at ``Waco''; and, best of all, Douglas E. Winter's ``Loop,'' about obsession with a child porn star into her adulthood, her snuff film, and farewell as meat on a coroner's slab. As horror writer T.E.D. Klein suggests in his startled, all- this-may-have-gotten-a-bit-out-of-hand introduction, one has to be a little off-center to like this in-your-face grue. Utterly ghastly but, ugh, at times inspired. Read full book review >
SISTERS OF THE NIGHT by Barbara Hambly
Released: Oct. 1, 1995

Surprisingly crisp and inventive vampire tales about sisters with fangs. Editors Hambly (Traveling with the Dead, see below) and sf- fantasy-mystery anthologist Greenberg hit on a happy idea when asking 14 writers, including Hambly, to write about ``the woman as vampire: loving that absorbs and destroys the lover; the moth going willingly to the flame. The immortal beloved who lives on the blood of a thousand mortal men.'' As it happens, the theme most common to these writers treats of homelife among the undead, and three study the vampire as mother. Thus there is a lot of cooking, agonized family chat, and even a PTA meeting. All are told with straight faces that undercut satirical intent, though satire is clearly meant here and there. The album kicks off with its best story, ``Empty,'' by M. John Harrison, which may well be a classic in the genre, its inspired slapstick payoff set in a bathtub. Perhaps ten of the 14 choose the right tone, while the others are overwritten or simply dullish or flat, including Larry Niven's overlong sf hackwork, ``Song of the Night People,'' or else depend on a tossed salad of mystery/fantasy jargons, as in George Alec Effinger's ``Marid and the Trail of Blood.'' The collection's absolute standouts are Kristine Kathryn Rusch's ``Victims,'' a very clever political tale about vampires coming out of the closet like gays, running escort services, and influencing elections; and Steve and Melanie Tem's ``Mama,'' the story of a cancer-ridden mother now dead and buried but to whom Dad takes trays in the back bedroom. Being dead gives Mama lots of power: ``Before anybody in the family did anything they first had to figure out how it might affect Mama.'' Blood in the bank. Read full book review >
NEW LEGENDS by Greg Bear
Released: Aug. 1, 1995

This original anthology of 15 stories and an essaya collection that, Bear hopes, amounts to "science fiction with a great soul"is divided into six sections: "Choices," "Growing Up," "Them and Us," "Win, Lose, or Draw," "Redemption," and "Ciphers,"all themes familiar from Bear's own fiction (Moving Mars, 1993, etc.). Ursula K. Le Guin's fine "Coming of Age in Karhide," set on the planet Gethen (Winter), echoes her magnificent novel The Left Hand of Darkness. In Paul J. McAuley's stunning tale of the remote future ("Recording Angel"), a humanity gene-engineered into a multiplicity of forms dwells on a flat world midway between an ancient galaxy and a colossal black hole. A failed archaeologist is tempted to swap places with a being from the end of time in Robert Silverberg's fascinating "The Red Blaze is the Morning." And physicist and author Gregory Benford's fascinating essay, "Old Legends," tracks the influences science fiction has had on the real world since the 1940s. Nonpareil. Read full book review >
Released: July 24, 1995

The editors' series of Cat Crimes anthologies hits bottom with this sixth installment. Though the idea seems promisingrescue those cat mysteries from the confines of a single location (Danger in D.C., 1993, etc.)it backfires, since breaking the well-established bonds between cats and cozy, if territorial, domesticity reduces the featured felines to the threadbare roles of avengers (in pieces by Gillian Roberts, Gary A. Braunbeck, Daniel B. Brawner, Jan Grape, Terry Black, Dorothy Cannell), telltale clues (Michael Collins, Bruce Holland Rogers), or walk-ons (Barbara Paul, Bill Crider, Tracy A. Knight, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Bill Pronzini, editor Gorman). Only Catherine Dain gives her cat a starring role. As mysteries, the stories range from mediocre downward. Somebody's obviously buying these books, however, so expect a new twist next year. Read full book review >
A NEWBERY ZOO by Martin H. Greenberg
Released: April 1, 1995

Third in an anthology series based on the work of Newbery Medal-winning authors (following A Newbery Christmas, 1991 and A Newbery Halloween, 1993). Lloyd Alexander, Betsy Byars, Beverly Cleary, Virginia Hamilton, Paul Fleischman, Will James, Robert Lawson, Jean Craighead George, Elizabeth Coatsworth, and Charles Boardman Hawes are all represented (some twice) in 12 selections. The theme of these short stories, chapters, and excerpts is animals; the styles range from realistic, to humorous, to fantasy. Their appeal is uneven; some are timeless, others are dated. Cleary's ``Henry and Ribsy Go Fishing'' is still funny; Hamilton's ``He Lion, Bruh Bear, and Bruh Rabbit'' is a good introduction to her wonderful versions of African-American folktales; and James's ``Tom and Jerry'' about two ponies who are loyal friends, even in mortal danger, remains poignant. Unfortunately, Lawson's ``Mr. Wilmer's Strange Saturday,'' in which a timid clerk discovers he can talk with animals, is coy and silly in the 1990s. There are biographical notes on each of the authors at the end, making this useful for teachers wishing to introduce the award-winning authors through read-aloud selections, or where there is a demand for materials of good literary quality that do not require long attention spans. (Fiction. 8-12) Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 1994

Twenty-three pretty unoriginal original short stories set in the American West, gathered by perennial bestseller Jakes (Homeland, not reviewed, etc.) and anthologizing editor Greenberg (Christmas Out West, not reviewed, etc.). Diversity turns out to be a drawback in this collection. There is something for every western fan here—wagon wheels rolling across dry land, pelts, colts, Colt .45s, homely women, and sinewy men—but the lot of them won't appeal to everyone. And any expectations of wandering along the trail not taken will be dashed; at best these tales are technically competent, at worst they are trite. Most are traditional in content and format. ``Half a Day from Water'' by Gordon D. Shirreffs, Teddy Keller's ``The Day of the Rain,'' and ``Hurrah for Captain Early'' by Elmore Leonard deal straightforwardly and successfully with themes of the treasure hunt, the delivery of justice versus neighborliness, and war heroism. Some of the stories are anecdotal, such as Elmer Kelton's O. Henryesque ``The Burial of Letty Strayhorn,'' in which a man returns to his wife's hometown to bury her ashes, and ``To Challenge a Legend'' by Albert Butler, who shows a boy remembering his marshal grandfather. Women figure prominently in the collection both as authors and characters, but their roles contrast jarringly with their gunslinging companions. Marianne Willman's ``Wildfire'' and ``The Leave-taking'' by Ruth Willett Lanza are romances; in both, ``Oh how I wish I was pretty, too''type heroines are taken care of by their men. Women overcome abusers in Judy Alter's ``Sweet Revenge'' (she kills him) and Lenore Carroll's ``Reunion'' (she watches him die). Indian characters also appear. In Jakes's ``Manitow and Ironhand'' (a tribute to western writer Karl May), a fur trapper teams up with a Native American to defeat an assassin. The Oregon Trail was abandoned in the 1870s. Once-fresh paths have long since been paved over. (Literary Guild selection) Read full book review >
GRAILS by Richard Gilliam
Released: Aug. 1, 1994

Companion to, and continuation of, the first and fairly mediocre Grails (p. 102). Again, the inapposite subtitle may be disregarded. The 29 stories featured here concern grails as both objects and metaphors whose themes and ideas run from traditional Arthurian scenarios through alternate worlds to contemporary global settings—and don't forget the traditional sprinkling of famous names. Plot devices include ironic reversals (Tanith Lee), a dragon's hoard, dogs, werewolves and the Franco-Prussian War (Karl Edward Wagner), Florida, the Ottoman Empire, the Wild West, Nazis, Southeast Asia (S.P. Somtow), England, inheritances, the Amazon, Canada, detectives and horrors in Holland (Jack C. Haldeman II), dime stores, evil grails, death row, the Wandering Jew, female knights (George Alec Effinger), blood and miracles (Pat Cadigan), New Age detectives, Merlin, Elvis in heaven, and migrant farmworkers. One Grails is plenty, two is an overdose. Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 1994

Actually, not quite original: Grails first appeared in 1992 as a 200,000-word hardcover limited to 1,000 copies. This volume is the first half of an expanded edition totalling 300,000 words (a second volume is promised for August 1994) and arrives courtesy of the editors who thought up last year's Confederacy of the Dead anthology. Strangely, though dedicating the book to Fritz Leiber, and including an afterword by him, the editors fail to mention that Leiber died in 1992. So, then, this first volume comprises three poems, one ``masque in verse,'' 20 stories, and the aforementioned afterword. Evidently, the authors were encouraged to take the idea of ``grail'' as metaphor and then run with it; sometimes they ran very far indeed. The results range from orthodox grail stories through Arthurian connections to elves, gypsies, the sun, westerns, WW I, charlatans, Atlantis, genies and wishes, second sight, freedom, visions, immortality, mad professors, baseball gloves, Down's syndrome, the Philosopher's Stone, and space-time distortions. The famous contributors include Andre Norton, Jane Yolen, Gene Wolfe, Alan Dean Foster, and Orson Scott Card. Patchy and discursive, with one or two real delights, some pleasant surprises and an equal number of clunkers. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 1994

The latest in a long line of chatty demi-reference books for crime mavens (cf. Steinbrunner and Penzler's Encyclopedia of Mystery and Detection, Barzun and Taylor's Catalogue of Crime, Dilys Winn's Murder Ink) is as irresistible as its forebears. Its 128 essays and lists, mostly of a few pages or less, cover everything, or almost everything, from regional mysteries (despite no mention of S.K. Epperson's Kansas gothics) to such subgenres as cozies, dark suspense, gay detectives, TV mysteries, and true crime (though there's nothing about courtroom drama, perhaps for legal reasons). Most of the name- brand authors (H.R.F. Keating, Joan Hess, Lawrence Block, Stephen King, Douglas G. Greene, etc., etc.) write with affectionate, often casual mastery; and though no collection this big or broad can hope to maintain a uniform standard throughout—historical glimpses of Doubleday's Crime Club imprint and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine are disappointingly perfunctory—fans impatient with the authors' occasionally cheerleading tone (``If you can't find a Texas author's book to suit your taste, you just aren't trying hard enough'') can find fresh vistas by turning a page, especially if they land on one of editor Breen's useful thumbnail sketches of a subgenre or one of the editors' endlessly arguable lists (``The Ten Most Underrated Mystery Writers,'' ``25 Notable Noir Novels,'' ``50 Great Gold Medal Crime Classics''). Despite inevitable blemishes: a truly indispensable volume. Read full book review >
DANGER IN D.C. by Martin H. Greenberg
Released: Nov. 15, 1993

You either like cat mysteries or you don't, and this tepid collection of 20 all-new stories won't change your mind either way. But the double requisite of cats and the Capitol calls for more resourcefulness than most of the authors can supply. Hints for reading: avoid the First Feline (in stories by John Lutz and Carole Nelson Douglas); don't expect much detection in the detective stories (by Barbara Paul, Jon L. Breen, Carolyn Wheat, William J. Reynolds, or Wendi Lee; Gary Braunbeck's ``The Cat's-Paw Affair'' is a happy exception), or much development of any sort in the cat-haunted sketches by Larry Segriff, Peter Crowther, or the usually reliable Max Allan Collins; and don't let Kristine Kathryn Rusch's dumb-in-cheek caper keep you away from the inventive entries by Richard Chizmar (also about the mass murder of cats) and Bruce Holland Rogers, or from Bill Crider's ``Code Red: Terror on the Mall!''—a Tom Clancy-plus-cat parody so broad and funny that you'll wonder how you could take any of the other stories seriously. Caution: ingesting too many at a sitting could cause hairballs. Read full book review >
Released: June 14, 1993

Anthology comprising 25 original entries illustrating the Civil War from a generally supernatural vantage. Most, but not all, are written from a southern perspective, upon which political correctness occasionally exerts a somewhat stifling effect. The standouts: Ed Gorman's sad, brutally effective piece about a Christ-like figure who threatens to alter the course of the war; Anne McCaffrey's splendid yarn of a liberal southern family and African magic; a wrenching tale of a wounded soldier's homecoming, from Nancy A. Collins; African sorcery and an abused white boy (S.P. Somtow); voodoo and revenge, with a twist ending (Brad Strickland); battlefield surgery (Gregory Nicoll); deserters and the walking dead (Robert Sampson); child victims (Lee Hoffman); and an immortality serum (Algis Budrys). Elsewhere, though the details vary, the ideas tend to trudge around in predictable circles: voodoo, animated corpses, revenge, ghouls, cannibals, and Indians, plus the usual handful of indefinable pieces. A major weakness is the editors' failure to notice that the horrors of war are rarely heightened by mere splatterpunk embellishments. Still, the Civil War theme has built-in popularity, and the best stories here are very good indeed. Read full book review >
PREDATORS by Ed Gorman
Released: Feb. 1, 1993

Suspense-oriented horror anthology of 21 stories, awash in slice-and-dice, that's nearly indistinguishable from its so-so predecessor, Stalkers (1989). Several authors from that earlier volume encore here, perhaps most notably Dean Koontz—though his energetic ``Hardscrabble,'' a cop-vs.-alien yarn, appeared in the Night Visions 4 anthology (1987). The other pieces are original, if rarely graced with originality. Exceptions include Edward Wellen's ``Mind Slash Matter,'' a rambling but always surprising suspenser about an Alzheimer's-afflicted screenwriter whose every move is shepherded by his computer; Richard Laymon's slyly nasty ``Slit,'' wherein a slasher woos the girl of his dreams; and two oddly affecting tales: Richard T. Chizmar's ``Heroes,'' in which a man turns to a vampire to help his dying dad, and Daniel Ransome and Rex Miller's ``Valentine'' (writhing with Miller's trademark fly-off-the-page prose), about a cop falling in love with a serial-killer. Meanwhile, three competent mystery/suspense yarns—Joyce Harrington's ``The Calligraphy Lesson,'' Edward D. Hoch's ``The Society of the Scar,'' and F. Paul Wilson's ``Slasher''—seem to have wandered in from someone else's anthology but provide relief from the run-of-the-bloody-mill fare offered by Lawrence Watt- Evans, John Shirley, J.N. Williamson and Scott Fogel, Billie Sue Mosiman, James Gregory Betancourt, Thomas F. Monteleone, Rick Hautala, and Christopher Fahy. The collection rounds out with anomalous tales from James Kisner (apocalyptic horror); Ed Naha (Twilight Zone-style shocks); T.L. Parkinson, Gary Bradner, and, last but by no means least, John Coyne, with a lushly moody tale of jungle intrigue. Steak-tartare-and-potatoes, with a few extras. Read full book review >
MURASAKI by Robert Silverberg
Released: April 15, 1992

Shared-world anthology (of Harlan Ellison's 1985 Medea), using a scenario created by two veteran writers, Poul Anderson and Frederik Pohl (the inspiration here is, of course, the poet Lady Murasaki's famous 11th-century Tale of Genji), and featuring stories by them and the stellar lineup of David Brin, Gregory Benford, Greg Bear, and Nancy Kress. Murasaki is a red dwarf sun whose double planets, Genji and Chujo, orbit each other. Planet Genji is large, warm, and wet, with a thick atmosphere and high gravity, and boasts at least one intelligent life-form. Chujo is small, cool, and dry, with a thin atmosphere and light gravity, and possesses another intelligent species. The first two expeditions to reach Murasaki are: a ship from Earth's space colonies, which observes briefly and returns; and a Japanese ship, with colonists aboard. Leading off, Pohl's tale involves the first ship and the natives of Chujo; one human, lost and believed dead, is left behind. Brin describes the natural cycles by which native civilizations rise and fall on Genji. Anderson investigates a second, seagoing, intelligent species on Genji. Japanese colonists confront the alien-contact conundrums epitomized by Chujo's intelligent autochthones in Benford's contribution. Bear explores the fate of the human left behind on Chujo in Pohl's tale. In the rearguard, Kress makes a valiant attempt to pull the whole project together. And, in two appendices, Anderson and Pohl set out the details of their creation, down to structures, life-forms, and ideas that were never taken up. Readers not taken by the very idea of the shared-world anthology will find little reassurance here. The scenario itself is consistently intriguing, but the minute inaugural detail provided by the creators seems to have inhibited the other contributors; at least, the individual stories, while solid and worthy, fail to rise much above the average. Still, if you liked Medea, you'll certainly like this. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 15, 1992

Omnipresent anthologists Gorman and Greenberg suggested to 18 writers that each pound out a story that included one common element: a young woman found dead on an apartment floor. Despite Bill Pronzini's introduction, which claims there's not ``a poorly conceived or poorly written [story] in the bunch,'' there's a fair number of each, the exceptions being John Lutz's ``Open and Shut,'' a deliciously devious cui bono? tale, and Barbara Paul's bioengineering story of next-century murder. Also on hand: Pronzini's ``Nameless,'' attending to a matter for a boccie-court regular; a plant-the-evidence story from Carolyn G. Hart; an Andrew Vachss short-short; a silly shrink-saga from Nancy Pickard; Loren Estleman with a religious cult, a pig farmer, and a secret in the wine cellar; and William F. Nolan with a trip to the boneyard, sci- fi style. Other contributors include three newcomers, Jan Grape, Kristine K. Rusch, and Billie Sue Mosiman, who are, in turn, obvious, labored, and repetitive (also derivative). A simplistic premise, alas, encourages simplistic solutions. Read full book review >
AFTER THE KING by Martin H. Greenberg
Released: Jan. 1, 1992

Yet another Festschrift anthology by Greenberg, who has recently edited or coedited tributes to Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and H.P. Lovecraft, this time to honor the much-imitated author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The difficulty with these projects is that the writers must retain the essential flavor of their own work while evoking somehow the style or subject or tone of the revered predecessor, and here—as in the Asimov, Bradbury, and Lovecraft volumes—the quality of the stories varies tremendously. The book leads off with an exceptionally good story by Stephen R. Donaldson, ``Reave the Just,'' in which a legendary hero saves the day in a most unusual fashion. Emma Bull's ``Silver or Gold,'' Peter S. Beagle's ``The Naga,'' Judith Tarr's ``Death and the Lady,'' and Patricia A. McKillip's ``The Fellowship of the Dragon'' likewise evoke something of the spirit of Tolkien while offering wonderful, original tales in their authors' own strong voices. Meanwhile, John Brunner, Barry N. Malzberg, and Gregory Benford provide solid stories, but their connection to Tolkien is slight. Much that's unfortunately mediocre, and a few stories (such as Dennis L. McKiernan's ``The Halfling House,'' egregious at 29 pages) that would have made Tolkien himself wince—but, still, the strongest tales here are among the best short-length fantasy of the year. Read full book review >
SOLVED by Ed Gorman
Released: Nov. 14, 1991

Sixteen short stories—some puckish, several conspiracy- oriented, and all never-published-before (for good reason)—that rework and supposedly ``solve'' various real-life notable mysteries. Predictably, the Kennedy assassination is front and center, with William J. Reynolds tackling it from Ruby's point of view, Barry N. Malzberg focusing on governmental goons, and Rex Miller and coauthor Dr. Fred L. King pairing it with Lincoln's murder and finding compelling (to them) similarities. Barbara Paul, in the most successful entry here, assigns yet another identity to Jack the Ripper, while Brian Hodge sets a scandal-sheet reporter, in a jaunty p.i. tone, on the trail of whoever shot up John Belushi for the last time. More fanciful are William L. DeAndrea's student laser-project, which rousts the Challenger; Alan Dean Foster's glimpse of Marilyn Monroe (she lives!); and Sean Flannery's royal ``control'' of Philby, et al. Plus: Janis Joplin's o.d., Jim Morrison's death, Andropov's hospital stay, Martin Bormann's last moments, and the real Lindbergh baby kidnapper are imagined by, respectively, Nancy A. Collins, Rick Hautala, Brian Harper, Matthew J. Costello, and William H. Hallahan. Ho-hum, overall, and not as interesting as the true-crime antecedents. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 1991

A sheaf of 23 original stories in tribute to Ray Bradbury's 50 years in fantasy and science fiction. Among the more celebrated authors that were gathered to honor Bradbury's 350 editions in 30 countries around the world are Isaac Asimov (with a tribute), Orson Scott Card, Gregory Benford, Charles L. Grant, Richard Matheson, F. Paul Wilson, Norman Corwin, Robert Sheckley, the late Charles Beaumont and his son Christopher Beaumont (his debut short story)—and Bradbury himself, who offers ``The Troll,'' a lost story (but one of his best!) from 1950 that Bradbury repolished for Nolan. He also contributes a moving if muzzy, modestly voiced memoir about his early writing (``...I was advancing from terrible into awful, on my way to mediocre''). This is a gleeful crew, each writer linking his story in some way to Bradbury tales or characters. Nolan's wife Cameron Nolan offers ``The Awakening,'' a solid work about the sexual awakening of Douglas Spaulding of Dandelion Wine, while Nolan himself offers a wildly entertaining parody, ``The Dandelion Chronicles'' (``The Waukegan crowd sighed, gasped, choked, cried out, the look of the great dream-colored climbing strawberry rocket in their round Illinois eyes...''). The longest work of devotion here, and perhaps the most powerful, is Orson Scott Card's ``Feed the Baby of Love,'' tying Dandelion Wine's 1928 time period to the present. Robert Sheckley's ``The Other Mars'' is a witty updating of what spacemen might find on a Bradburyized Mars today, oddly still a place of mythic fantasy. Christopher Beaumont's ``The Man with the Power Tie'' tells of the son of the psychiatrist in Bradbury's ``The Man in the Rorschach Shirt,'' who finds himself wearing a horrible tie that soaks up luck and energy. First-rate in every way, stories, editing, and as an act of love. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 30, 1991

Thirteen tales, at least one for every taste (as long as it's blood): mall-rat vampires, pious Jewish vampires, squeamish vampires, and shaman vampires; vampires accepted, rejected, or defeated. Scary stories, labored stories, funny stories—after this, no one could claim that when you've seen one vampire you've seen them all. Not for everybody, but (mostly) good clean fun for enthusiasts. (Fiction. 10+)Read full book review >
Released: July 16, 1991

Seventeen new if not overly original stories guaranteed to give you paws—if not pause. There are several hate-the- wife/hubby/kids but love-the-cat tales, include Peter Lovesey's commuter's nightmare, Joan Hess's hunting-lodge destroy mission, David H. Everson's cat-custody case, and John Lutz's gruesome family plot. There are cats as heroes (Pronzini's ``Nameless'' meets Harold) and as villains (Christopher Fahy's metaphorical Venetian metamorphosis); there's a cat hair as a clue in Les Roberts's snappy ``Little Cat Feet,'' and cats as best friends of man (J.A. Jance, Bill Crider) and beast (Jon L. Breen's cat-and- horse story); there is even a cat as narrator in Dorothy B. Hughes's terminally cute ``Horatio Ruminates.'' Finally, there are poor cats (Barbara D'Amato's life in the subway), and the cat to make an ailurophobe squirm (William J. Reynolds's cuddlesome gifts to the needy). Nothing here to equal Edgar Allan Poe's cat, or even Lilian Jackson Braun's. Strictly for feline fanatics. Read full book review >
Released: July 1, 1989

Another "Mammoth Book of. . ." (last time out, Short Novels of the 1930s, 1988). We are now entering the era of John W. Campbell, the dynamic and uniquely influential editor/writer, who—in emphasizing science and craftsmanship—left an indelible stamp on the field. The 1930's, fans will recall, produced many ideas but few claims to literary respectability. Under Campbell, the ideas of the 1940's grew more refined; his writers were obliged to become more competent and capable. (Not all the writers here, however, were "Campbell writers.") Several of these selections are recognized classics: Jack Williamson's "With Folded Hands" describes how the human race is destroyed by the perfect robot-servants it has created; T.L. Sherred ("E for Effort") postulates a time-scanner used in a noble but doomed attempt to expose lies and hypocrisy; C.L. Moore's "No Woman Born" remains the benchmark for human-brain-in-robot-body stories; Theodore Sturgeon's "Killdozer!" is the scariest and most convincing machine-runs-amok tale you'll ever come across; Isaac Asimov's "The Big and the Little" became part of his remarkable Foundation trilogy; A.E. van Vogt's tale of super-pseudoscience, "The Weapons Shop," still thrills as it strains credulity. And other, less fully realized variations (time travel, medical disaster, hypnotic illusions) have nostalgia value at least. Generously proportioned, agreeably priced, and most certainly worthwhile. Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1989

The authors collected here should know about the occult—nearly all of them are dead. But to the credit of the editors of this shoestring (dead authors=much public domain work=low royalties) anthology, mixed among the very moldy and familiar chestnuts (Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart, Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown, W.F. Harvey's August Heat) are some rarities: H.G. Wells' life-after-death tale, Under the Knife; Arthur Conan Doyle's personality-transfer story, The Great Keinplatz Experiment, and little-collected tales from August Derleth, Edith Wharton, Rudyard Kipling, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, and others. Editor Asimov contributes a forgettable introduction and, to each tale, a slightly more useful afterword discussing the tale's theme (22 themes—"Evil Eye," "Exorcism," "Soul Travel," etc.—with one story per theme). Overall, an anthology of interest primarily to occult-fiction completists. Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1989

The authors collected here should know about the occult—nearly all of them are dead. But to the credit of the editors of this shoestring (dead authors=much public domain work=low royalties) anthology, mixed among the very moldy and familiar chestnuts (Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart, Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown, W.F. Harvey's August Heat) are some rarities: H.G. Wells' life-after-death tale, Under the Knife; Arthur Conan Doyle's personality-transfer story, The Great Keinplatz Experiment, and little-collected tales from August Derleth, Edith Wharton, Rudyard Kipling, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, and others. Editor Asimov contributes a forgettable introduction and, to each tale, a slightly more useful afterword discussing the tale's theme (22 themes—"Evil Eye," "Exorcism," "Soul Travel," etc.—with one story per theme). Overall, an anthology of interest primarily to occult-fiction completists. Read full book review >
Released: July 15, 1988

Compared with the works of the founders of modern sf, H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, those of the 1930's, contrary to the overblown title, often seem insufferably crude; even the better craftsmen of the era were prone to excessive verbiage, prose that was more puce than purple, cartoon characters and antics, and rickety or nonexistent plots—all of which are on ample display here. Sf, however, is primarily a literature of ideas—so, readers may observe herein the fascinating, sometimes traumatic birth of ideas that became classic, and, with various modifications, persisted into the present. Thus, H.P. Lovecraft describes some mind-swapping horrors from the distant past. Editor/writer Horace L. Gold (Galaxy) posits the dilemma of a man whose brain is transplanted into a dog's body. A woman is revived from the dead in Cornell Woolrich's melodrama. Editor/writer John W. Campbell (Astounding) discovers some aliens frozen in the ice of Antarctica. Another editor/writer, Harry Bates (Amazing), speculates on far-future humans so intellectualized that they have devolved into idiots. Murray Leinster invents the notion of travelling into probability-worlds. Eric Frank Russell and Leslie T. Johnson time-travel into the gar future. L. Sprague de Camp, in the best story here, defeats some alien conquerors by knocking off their thinking-caps. Stanley G. Weinbaum's immortal female conqueror harasses the distant future. And Jack Williamson's sinister nasties invade Earth from another dimension. Ideas sound familiar? They should. Worth a try for nostalgia buffs and students of the field. Read full book review >
Released: July 1, 1987

These ten very different tales feature young magic-workers, and will appeal to a variety of readers. In traditional fashion, the collection begins and ends with its strongest stories: Bradbury's "April Witch," about a young girl with ESP who falls in love while looking through someone else's eyes, and Hearn's old "Boy Who Drew Cats," with its wonderfully gory final image. There's plenty of meat between the bread, though, especially in Henderson's classic "Stevie and the Dark" and Lee's poignant "Message from Charity." A pair of horror stories don't work too well, possibly because they're just too short; an otherwise expertly done heroic fantasy also seems too hasty, but three tongue-in-cheek episodes will provide some mild amusement. Good addition to a popular series of theme anthologies. Read full book review >
Released: July 18, 1985

Alert readers expect a certain amount of bombast from editors of "best of" anthologies; but, as Asimov remarks in his introduction (his emphasis): "I don't know any great scientists who are great science fiction writers." The by-line is similarly elastic, including "scientists" "who obtained the education to become such, but drifted away." It's not even an original idea for an anthology. And so to the contents: 21 stories, 1954-85, except for one turn-of-the-century antique, a sort of talky prototype of Borges' "The Library of Babel," from Kurd Lasswitz. The better, well-known entries include: Arthur C. Clarke's space race in ships propelled by solar sails, "The Wind from the Sun"; J.F. Bone's masterful tale of amoeba-like aliens (Martians?) encountering an enigmatic (NASA?) space probe; James V. McConnell's thin but original look at experimental psychology from the rat's viewpoint; "Love is the Plan the Plan is Death," James Tiptree Jr.'s powerful tale of loving, cannibalistic aliens struggling to cope with a deteriorating climate; and from Chad Oliver, a strong humans-really-come-from-outer-space yarn, "Transfusion." The remaining tales feature some fair ideas in often lifeless treatments: tiny, super-dense aliens; a space elevator; a cyborg spaceship; linguistic problems; involuntary population control; historical fantasies; witches; and hyperspace. A few goodies, then, but generally mediocre and disappointing. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 28, 1984

A circumscribed and rather tentative collection of 17 tales, 1941-75. There are three standouts: Frederik Pohl's well-known "The Children of the Night," a devastating satire on the role of PR in politics; R. A. Lafferty's effervescent examination of the very strange "Polity and Customs of the Camiroi"; and a masterful, engrossing Wyman Guin story of a society divided into coexisting but mutually hostile telepathic/technological blocs. Elsewhere, old favorites reappear: Asimov's "Franchise," with super-computer Multivac electing a new president by interviewing one single representative American; Michael Shaara's view of 2066, when the job of president has grown too onerous for any one person to handle; Christopher Anvil's device to make negotiators forget words like "war" and "communism." And there are also robot politicians (John Jakes, more Asimov), angry political assassinations (Barry N. Malzberg), an amusing/satirical reactionary robot president (Ward Moore), a president who fakes an illness in order to promote his talented but unelectable vice president (Randall Garrett), and a secret, elite government-within-the-government (Sam Sackett). Filled out with mediocre contributions from Arthur C. Clarke, Frank Herbert, Robert A. Heinlein, Stanley Schmidt, and Larry Eisenberg: topical yet often bland fare—good enough for politically-oriented diversion, too un-probing to please serious sf fans. Read full book review >
Released: April 30, 1984

Another "best of" collection, with a particularly tenuous premise: twelve stories, 1839-1966—representing the "first appearance of an interesting idea" (though even here Asimov quibbles a bit). The famous yarns include Murray Leinster's 1946 tale about home computers, "A Logic Named Joe"; Fitz-James O'Brien's exploration of a microcosmic world in "The Diamond Lens" (another, less well-known O'Brien entry describes an invisible being); Larry Niven's "Neutron Star"; and Asimov's robot-catches-religion story, "Reason"—representing the first account of a solar power satellite. There are disappointing entries from great masters: Poe's "The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion" (a comet strikes Earth) and Wells' "The Land Ironclads" (tanks in battle). But most of the remainder is impressive—from Don Wilcox's "multi-generation starship" to a 1952 Fritz Leiber clone tale to Richard Matheson on overpopulation (compulsory euthanasia for the aged/infirm) and Lester del Rey on animal superiority. (Intelligent dogs take over after humanity destroys itself.) Except for a foolish 1937 pulp piece about antimatter, then: an attention-worthy gathering—even if the arbitrariness of the assemblage irritates. Read full book review >
Released: March 9, 1984

Teeny-weeny tales—so teeny-weeny that the table of contents is longer than any of the entries here. Also, in true fantasy short-short fashion, these tidbits (1940-84) tend to dwell on familiar themes: deals with the devil, Judgement Day, wizards, Aztecs, unicorns, dragons, bottled genies and fairies offering three wishes, voodoo, feeble fairy tales, and horrible puns. And, despite the short-short's essential reliance on surprise for impact, many are dreadfully predictable. There are, inevitably, a few moments of shock or amusement here and there, not to mention the sprinkling of famous names (Lovecraft, Andre Maurois, Harlan Ellison, Damon Knight, Donald A. Wollheim). But the overall effect is numbing rather than stimulating: one of the Asimov factory's less workable ideas for an anthology. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 13, 1983

Factual, speculative, and mythical ideas about origins—concerning (in four separate parts) the universe, the solar system, the Earth, and humankind—via a peculiar, confusing mix of materials: four scriptural selections, four straightforward science pieces, 17 fantasy/sf stories from 1933-81, a poem, and a recent Asimov essay refuting Creationism. Part I, for instance—the origin of the universe—starts off with Genesis, proceeds to describe the physics of the Big Bang, adds stories about gods, creations, and cosmological phenomena, and winds up with the philosophical ambiguities of the Rg-Veda. Inconsistencies soon appear. Only Judeo-Christian and Hindu creation myths are included; Carl Sagan's look at the solar system (from Broca's Brain) avoids the question of its origin; and—most prominently—there is no scientific account of human evolution. Some pieces nonetheless stand out: the excerpt from Steven Weinberg's admirable The First Three Minutes, in the particle physics department; Brian Aldiss' valiant attempt ("Non-Isotrophic") to wed theology and cosmology with fiction; two golden oldies—Eric Frank Russell's Adam-and-Eve yarn, "First Person Singular," and Asimov's Neanderthal child, "The Ugly Little Boy"; plus lesser efforts from van Vogt, Clarke, Simak, and Wells. A disjointed, artificial assemblage—that still might find favor in a few origin-pondering classrooms, as well as with ardent Asimovians. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 30, 1983

An over-eclectic assemblage of 29 yarns, one from 1894, the rest 1932-76, running to a hefty 550-plus pages—and arranged more or less chronologically in the usual fairly meaningless categories. The famous tales include an overabundance of Asimov; "Moxon's Master," Ambrose Bierce's chessplaying automaton that murders its creator; "Fulfillment," A. E. van Vogt's vast, intelligent computer contending with an earlier version of itself; Harlan Ellison's ultimate in computer horror, "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream"; Fredric Brown's classic short-short, "Answer" (a supercomputer is asked, "Is there a God?"); and others from Walter M. Miller, Jr., Gordon Dickson, Philip K. Dick, Arthur C. Clarke, and Michael Shara. Also noteworthy: a very early John Wyndham yarn about a Martian robot baffled by Earthly anti-machine paranoia; Murray Leinster invents home computers—in 1946; Harry Harrison's robots continue to fight a meaningless war long after the humans have made peace; and Robert Silverberg's ironic tale of computer-enhanced music. Two others stand out, but neither is about robots or computers: J. F. Bone's well-known "Triggerman" (the finger on the nuclear button), plus a splendid alien-contact yarn from Gene Wolfe. And the rest come in between standard and soggy. A shapeless and rather parochial collection (notable absentees include Aldiss, Simak, and Lem)—but there's no shortage of high-quality, if often familiar, material. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 12, 1982

Forget the pretentious "dictionary" label: this admittedly mammoth, 50-piece collection—with its contrived categories ("knights," "judicial system," "women," etc.) and haft-witted definitions ("children—persons between infancy and puberty; the offspring of human beings")—is just another gab-bag, despite the noisy packaging. Furtermore, 34 of the yarns are from the 1940s and '50s, with all that implies in terms of pulpish writing, flawed or flimsy premises, and juvenile, cliff-hanging plots. Among the famous entries: Cordwainer Smith's hyperspace pinball, "The Game of Rat and Dragon"; Arthur Clarke's Venusians puzzling over a Walt Disney cartoon, "History Lesson"; Anne McCaffrey's original cyborg-spaceship tale, "The Ship That Sang"; and H. G. Wells' horrifying deep-sea dive, "In the Abyss." There's plenty of humor, including a Richard Matheson tale about a crawling, sentient Los Angeles taking over the world, and one of Piers Anthony's interstellar dentist yarns (funny, but guaranteed to induce toothache in the reader). Plus: touching love stories from Theodore Sturgeon and Robert F. Young; a blend of spaghetti western and time travel from Bob Shaw; a half-animal, half-vegetable alien in distress from C. D. Simak; sharp feminism from Suzette Haden Elgin; and several space operas of the "who was that masked man?" variety. Entertaining, often YA-ish, certainly browse-worthy tales—but, overall, mutton dressed as lamb. Read full book review >
Released: April 22, 1982

At first glance this might appear an implausible anthology idea—but the upshot is a deliciously varied and diverting set of 15 yarns, from H. G. Wells to the present, examining obesity in all its ghastly guises. The famous entries: Wells' "The Truth About Pyecraft"; "The Man Who Ate the World," one of Frederik Pohl's celebrated stories about a chronically over-productive world in which poverty means endless, grinding consumption; "Abercrombie Station," Jack Vance's space station where the grossly overweight float free of gravity, opprobrium, and social restraint; and Stephen King's "Quitters, Inc.," which tells how to give up smoking and lose weight—or else. Some of the less well-known but equally yummy tales just might put you off your victuals permanently: a hilariously sickening eating contest (T. Coraghessan Boyle); a robot family chef determined to starve its flabby charges (Robert Silverberg); a ladies' club whose members fatten up their husbands for the dinner table (John Anthony West); a despised fat girl who consigns her enemies to a world of lollipop trees and chocolate rivers (William Tenn); a painter whose foody murals are subliminally enhanced by restaurateurs to whip patrons into a frenzy of feeding (Scott Sanders); and finger-lickin' goodies from Orson Scott Card, R. A. Lafferty, and others. Simply scrumptious—however familiar some items on the menu. Read full book review >
Released: March 22, 1982

Neither of the locked-room masters—John Dickson Carr and Clayton Rawson—is represented in this collection of twelve stories; for classics, the editors turn instead to three of the most over-familiar items imaginable (Poe's "Rue Morgue," Conan Doyle's "Speckled Band," and Futrelle's "Cell 13"). Still, there's a trio of agreeable rarities here. From the Thirties: MacKinlay Kantor's "The Light at Three O'Clock" (body disappears from bloody hotel-room) and Cornell Woolrich's "Murder at the Automat"—neither especially clever in plot, but both written with infectious, streetwise zest. And Barry Perowne's "The Blind Spot" is a suave diversion, though it involves a locked-room puzzle that's never revealed (the brainstorm of a drunk thriller-playwright. . . who forgets his inspiration when he sobers up). The rest? A generally humdrum assortment: a Lester Leith tale from Erle Stanley Gardner, Robert Arthur's in-jokey "The 51st Sealed Room," William March's irritating "The Bird House," a creaky pseudo-time-machine effort by Jack Wodhams, an impossible-magic-act puzzle by Bill Pronzini & Michael Kurland, and Edward D. Hoch's solid "The Leopold Locked Room." All in all, then: a spotty collection that's inferior in most respects—including introductory material—to Hoch's own much more generous All But Impossible anthology (1981). Read full book review >
Released: July 8, 1981

A generous collection of "short-shorts"—crime stories whose brevity (2000 words or less) is often their major attraction; most of the plot twists here are familiar, but there's no time for the belaboring or padding that afflict so many of the longer mystery-magazine stories. So even if this anthology doesn't include any of the great mini-mysteries—those by Edmund Crispin, for example (cf. Fen Country, 1980)—it does offer lots of competent tales and a few real winners. Best of all: Jack Ritchie's "Shatter Proof," an elegant showdown between hired killer and victim which may remind you of the witty byplay in Sleuth. Also notable: Elsin Ann Graffam's "A Night Out With the Boys" (which can be read as a wicked little companion piece to Leonard Michaels' The Men's Club) and her more conventional "House Call"—a nice poisoned-coffee number with a Christie-ish chill. And three of the other standouts use the naturally compact exchange-of-letters format: an amusing creeper by Pronzini & Malzberg; a neat outwit-the-cops anecdote by Lawrence Treat & Charles M. Plotz; and John Lutz's dandy "Pure Rotten," a swift cross between The Bad Seed and The Ransom of Red Chief. The rest run the usual gamut, heavy on love triangles and wife-murders, with sturdy multiple entries from Henry Slesar, Edward D. Hoch, James Holding, and Elaine Slater. One misses the lighter British touch here, perhaps (and the one Michael Gilbert piece is disappointing), but mystery readers who like a light five-minute read just before bed (or between bus stops) will find this a solid source of mild mini-pleasures. Read full book review >
Released: June 27, 1980

One hundred miniature sf short stories, most of them too gimmicky to induce more than a shrug—but a few old pros do provide some mini-pleasure. Asimov's own "True Love" is the first-person tale of a program in a Multivac-complex—a program that gets away from its programmer (who's seeking the ideal woman) and begins seeking the ideal girl for itself. Harlan Ellison provides two audacious stories that reduce Big Themes to sprightly one-liners. Arthur C. Clarke's "Take a Deep Breath"—about a man without a spacesuit who can save his life only by passing through the vacuum between two space vehicles—offers his customary technological authority and precision. And who can resist Joanna Russ' nonstory "Useful Phrases for the Tourist"—the alien tourist, that is: "Waitress, this meal is still alive". . . "Are you edible? I am not edible". . . "That is my ear". . . "I am toxic". . . Not for serious sf folk, and no substantial nutrition for anybody—but a serviceable enough bedside anthology for those who get a yen for just a taste of something silly or tricky before going to sleep. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 16, 1979

Though a good deal better than Malzberg-and-Pronzini's Dark Sins, Dark Dreams (1978), this crime/sf anthology makes you wonder whether maybe the idea itself is jinxed. Part of the trouble here is that the editors have split up the literature of crime into 13 categories (locked room, police procedural, etc.), shoving a sf story into each one with varying degrees of justification. Things get off to a mediocre start with one of the late Tom Reamy's thinner efforts (Chandleresque vehicle with horror ending), end gloriously with William Tenn's "Time in Advance" (why not let people serve murder sentences before the crime, at a 50% discount?), and strike a pretty high level in between. Charles De Vet and Katherine MacLean ably depict an infiltrator's attempt to arrange friendly contact between the human race and an alien society with a baffling code of honor. Philip K. Dick's "War Game" is a neat Trojan-horse tale involving a couple of deadly toys. And "Mouthpiece," by Edward Wellen, brilliantly combines a reworking of the Dutch Schultz case with a computer-program-come-to-life premise (and then commits one of the dumbest endings in recent memory). Other fine contributions include Simak's "How-2," Larry Niven's "Arm," and Jack Vance's elegant "Coup de Grace." Some marvelous material, but a strained anthology. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 31, 1979

An old-fashioned anthology of old-fashioned virtues: there's not much in the way of stylistic fireworks or conspicuously labeled profundity here, but rather a clear projection of the relationship between material and treatment that distinguishes the science-fiction form. Asimov's introductory essays sum up what is known to date about the important bodies of our solar system—planets, asteroids, comets—while the twelve stories mostly date from 1955-1965 and embody then-reasonable notions about the same things. Asimov's own "Waterclap" (about competition for funds between a deep-sea project and a lunar colony) is a bit later (1970), but is representative in its efficient writing, economical use of scientific premises, and only slightly qualified optimism about the adventure of space. "Barnacle Bull" by the pseudonymous Winston P. Saunders (Poul Anderson) is a good illustration of Golden Age Jocular at its most pleasant; an early Robert Sheckley story about a Venusian prospector strikes an agreeable note without too many of his usual hijinks; and among deserving contributions by the likes of James Blish, Alexei Panshin, Arthur C. Clarke, and Fritz Leiber, Terry Carr's "Hop-Friend" (in which a friendly Martian turns out to be not quite what he seems) still stands out as one of the most mordant science-fiction stories ever written. An eminently well-designed collection. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 10, 1977

A hundred shiny little items with all the variety and dimension of a miniature automobile collection salvaged from the breakfast cereal. True, science fiction has always reserved a special niche for the short short story or outrageous gag. But after about ten in a row your eyes start to glaze over. Among the better mini-scenarios here: Edward Wellen's vignette of St. Nick in the land of Big Brother ("Sanity Clause"), Alfred Bester's last representative of Homo Megalomaniacus ("The Die-Hard"), Hayford Peirce's "Mail Supremacy" with its brilliant confirmation of a long-suspected inverse relationship between time and distance in the ways of the Post Office. Maggie Nadler astringently imagines a profitable link between technology and voyeurism; James E. Gunn suggests the mudpie origins of the universe; Larry Niven gives us an Earthside biological probe set down on a not-very-well-supervised Martian children's playground. But all but the brightest of the bright ideas rapidly take on the effect of light bulbs above cartoon panels. And much of the writing has an assembly-line sameness that would vanish in the execution of a larger design but becomes almost unbearable in this format. A pretty well-designed collection for reference or desultory browsing, not for consecutive reading. Read full book review >

The first anthology of Japanese sf stories to appear in English translation—"sf" used very loosely to embrace fantasy, surrealism, and horror: 13 tales, 1963-89, offering fascinating cross-cultural sidelights and echoes of themes and treatments by more familiar writers, the best ranking with the finest stories anywhere. The standouts: Tetsu Yano's "The Legend of the Paper Spaceship," the most wrenching, compelling and poignant alien-castaway yam you'll ever read; and "The Savage Mouth," Sakyo Komatsu's brutal and utterly horrifying tale of a man who literally consumes himself. Also impressive: Kobo Abe describes humanity dissolving into sentiment slime (cf. Greg Bear); an implacable, perhaps malign antique wooden chest (Ryo Hanmura); Shinichi Hoshi's superb wormhole-through-space yarn placed in a mundane setting (cf. the Strugatsky brothers); a time-travel swindle with a twist ending (Sakyo Komatsu); Taku Mayumura's surreal time-worm embracing its own wormhole in time (cf. Brian Aldiss); and Yasutaka Tsutsui's hair-raising world where social misfits and dissidents are forcibly planted and turned into trees (cf. Jack Vance). Often deceptively stark, yet with a satisfying range that reveals unexpected depths and perspectives: browse-worthy for anyone curious about non-English-language sf—and a rare treat for connoisseurs. Read full book review >