Wonderfully written, surprisingly varied apocalyptic tales.

THIS WAY TO THE END TIMES

CLASSIC TALES OF THE APOCALYPSE

In a substantial anthology of stories about the end of the world, editor Silverberg (Tales of Majipoor, 2013, etc.) brings together works by both classic science-fiction writers and contemporary authors.

The 21 stories here have a pleasing range of styles and contexts, offering a much-appreciated texture to the potentially dispiriting common theme of apocalypse and post-apocalypse. The oldest hail from the early 1900s (Jules Verne started writing “The Eternal Adam” in 1904), and the most recent story (“Prayers to the Sun By a Dying Person” by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro) has its debut in this book. Each story is preceded by a short introduction in which Silverberg gives readers a chatty and often charming tidbit of the author’s biography and explains why he chose the story. The reader learns not only that James Tiptree Jr. was the pen name of Alice Sheldon, but also that she once worked for the CIA; that Malcolm Edwards only ever published one story but is a celebrated editor; and that Silverberg has no compunction about including multiple stories by certain authors, or stories by himself, or a story by his wife (“Three Days After” by Karen Haber). The sense of genuine personal delight and admiration as a guiding editorial principle lends the anthology the friendly air of someone showing off a beloved and much-studied collection, despite the often dire content of the stories themselves. The stories are uniformly good and frequently excellent. Only five are by women, but those five are genuinely exciting, and while a more diverse group of authors might be desired, the variety of ways in which these stories choose to end the world offers a great deal—nightmarish, funny, lonely, or hopeful—for the imagination.

Wonderfully written, surprisingly varied apocalyptic tales.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-941110-47-8

Page Count: 456

Publisher: Three Rooms Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and...

DUNE

This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

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Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.

READY PLAYER ONE

Video-game players embrace the quest of a lifetime in a virtual world; screenwriter Cline’s first novel is old wine in new bottles. 

The real world, in 2045, is the usual dystopian horror story. So who can blame Wade, our narrator, if he spends most of his time in a virtual world? The 18-year-old, orphaned at 11, has no friends in his vertical trailer park in Oklahoma City, while the OASIS has captivating bells and whistles, and it’s free. Its creator, the legendary billionaire James Halliday, left a curious will. He had devised an elaborate online game, a hunt for a hidden Easter egg. The finder would inherit his estate. Old-fashioned riddles lead to three keys and three gates. Wade, or rather his avatar Parzival, is the first gunter (egg-hunter) to win the Copper Key, first of three. Halliday was obsessed with the pop culture of the 1980s, primarily the arcade games, so the novel is as much retro as futurist. Parzival’s great strength is that he has absorbed all Halliday’s obsessions; he knows by heart three essential movies, crossing the line from geek to freak. His most formidable competitors are the Sixers, contract gunters working for the evil conglomerate IOI, whose goal is to acquire the OASIS. Cline’s narrative is straightforward but loaded with exposition. It takes a while to reach a scene that crackles with excitement: the meeting between Parzival (now world famous as the lead contender) and Sorrento, the head of IOI. The latter tries to recruit Parzival; when he fails, he issues and executes a death threat. Wade’s trailer is demolished, his relatives killed; luckily Wade was not at home. Too bad this is the dramatic high point. Parzival threads his way between more ’80s games and movies to gain the other keys; it’s clever but not exciting. Even a romance with another avatar and the ultimate “epic throwdown” fail to stir the blood.

Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-88743-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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