A debut collection that offers a brilliant image of small-town life in Montana. Each of these eight stories revolves around dry-fly trout fishing on the Elkheart River, near the small town of Travers Corners that's been around for 120 years or so. While this kind of terrain has been well and sufficiently rendered before (Norman Maclean comes to mind), Waldie makes it fresh. His most moving piece is ``Travels,'' about a worn-out, despairing musician who rents space on the Elkheart River for his mobile home, sits and fishes, strums his guitar and is slowly, quietly, believably rejuvenated, deciding that ``there is nothing on God's green earth that could make this place any better.'' Other tales focus on Judson C. Clark, who returns after a spell in the outer world and sets up a boatyard for building his own handcrafted float boats. Jud's expertise as a guide to the best fishing edges and pools on the Elkheart are frequently called upon, while Waldie deftly uses the obsession for fishing shared by his characters to reveal the inner nature of visitors and townsfolk alike. As Jud says: ``Fly fishing isn't a sport; basketball is a sport. . . . Fly fishing isn't a parlor game; Monopoly is a parlor game. . . . Fly fishing really is: one of life's most pleasant pastimes.'' Does that reduce a passion to a pastime? Not at all. In these stories, Jud takes an elderly blind man fishing in a heavy rain. He also recollects his first lover, and the sight of her swimming in the river. Meanwhile, a titled, wealthy descendant of D. Downey, one of the town's founders, arrives from England to look into his past by fishing with Jud. Hardly anything happens, but by book's end it's hard to resist the impulse to pack up and head for Montana. Sheer heaven on a trout stream.

Pub Date: May 1, 1997

ISBN: 1-55821-533-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Lyons Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1997

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It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers...

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Exploring humankind's place in the universe and the nature of humanity, many of the stories in this stellar collection focus on how technological advances can impact humanity’s evolutionary journey.

Chiang's (Stories of Your Life and Others, 2002) second collection begins with an instant classic, “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” which won Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novelette in 2008. A time-travel fantasy set largely in ancient Baghdad, the story follows fabric merchant Fuwaad ibn Abbas after he meets an alchemist who has crafted what is essentially a time portal. After hearing life-changing stories about others who have used the portal, he decides to go back in time to try to right a terrible wrong—and realizes, too late, that nothing can erase the past. Other standout selections include “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” a story about a software tester who, over the course of a decade, struggles to keep a sentient digital entity alive; “The Great Silence,” which brilliantly questions the theory that humankind is the only intelligent race in the universe; and “Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny,” which chronicles the consequences of machines raising human children. But arguably the most profound story is "Exhalation" (which won the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Short Story), a heart-rending message and warning from a scientist of a highly advanced, but now extinct, race of mechanical beings from another universe. Although the being theorizes that all life will die when the universes reach “equilibrium,” its parting advice will resonate with everyone: “Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you are able to do so.”

Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers in a big way.

Pub Date: May 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-94788-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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