The definitive collection of science fiction’s greatest humorist—and this is only the first volume.

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THE COMPLETE SCIENCE FICTION OF WILLIAM TENN, VOL. I

Thirty-three gems, most of which still shine brightly, written between 1946–94, by the frequently anthologized, and highly original, science fiction master. Snappy, sarcastic, streetwise, and almost always hilarious, the pseudonymous Tenn (Philip Klass, English/Penn State) is one of the only writers the genre has produced who readily understands that it’s much harder and more rewarding to write well about funny things than to merely write funny. Though he did not invent any new styles of science-fiction storytelling, as Asimov did with his robot tales, Tenn invigorated tired pulp conventions with a literate intelligence and a sympathetic eye for working-stiff, salt-of-the-earth, urban underdogs (in one of the afterwords here, he admits to always taking the side of the natives when he played cowboys and Indians as a child). The fruits of this distinctive sensibility include such masterpieces of space opera as “Down Among the Dead Men” and a nice rendering of the last-man-on-Earth scenario in “The Custodian.” In her clumsy introduction, Connie Willis calls Tenn the “Scheherazade” of SF, but in truth he remains its best humorist. The London-born, Brooklyn-raised author uses a distinctly New York Jewish satirical voice in the hilarious “The Flat-Eyed Monster” (a spoof on the bug-eyed monsters on pulp magazine covers), in the post–nuclear holocaust tale “Eastward, Ho!,” and in his homage to Sholom Aleichem, “On Venus, Have We Got a Rabbi.”

The definitive collection of science fiction’s greatest humorist—and this is only the first volume.

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-886778-19-1

Page Count: 619

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2001

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Smart, funny, humane, and superbly well-written.

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SEVERANCE

A post-apocalyptic—and pre-apocalyptic—debut.

It’s 2011, if not quite the 2011 you remember. Candace Chen is a millennial living in Manhattan. She doesn’t love her job as a production assistant—she helps publishers make specialty Bibles—but it’s a steady paycheck. Her boyfriend wants to leave the city and his own mindless job. She doesn’t go with him, so she’s in the city when Shen Fever strikes. Victims don’t die immediately. Instead, they slide into a mechanical existence in which they repeat the same mundane actions over and over. These zombies aren’t out hunting humans; instead, they perform a single habit from life until their bodies fall apart. Retail workers fold and refold T-shirts. Women set the table for dinner over and over again. A handful of people seem to be immune, though, and Candace joins a group of survivors. The connection between existence before the End and during the time that comes after is not hard to see. The fevered aren’t all that different from the factory workers who produce Bibles for Candace’s company. Indeed, one of the projects she works on almost falls apart because it proves hard to source cheap semiprecious stones; Candace is only able to complete the contract because she finds a Chinese company that doesn’t mind too much if its workers die from lung disease. This is a biting indictment of late-stage capitalism and a chilling vision of what comes after, but that doesn’t mean it’s a Marxist screed or a dry Hobbesian thought experiment. This is Ma’s first novel, but her fiction has appeared in distinguished journals, and she won a prize for a chapter of this book. She knows her craft, and it shows. Candace is great, a wonderful mix of vulnerability, wry humor, and steely strength. She’s sufficiently self-aware to see the parallels between her life before the End and the pathology of Shen Fever. Ma also offers lovely meditations on memory and the immigrant experience.

Smart, funny, humane, and superbly well-written.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-374-26159-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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ENDER'S GAME

A rather one-dimensional but mostly satisfying child-soldier yarn which substantially extends and embellishes one of Card's better short stories (Unaccompanied Sonata and Other Stories, 1980).

Following a barely-defeated invasion attempt by the insect-like alien "buggers," a desperate Earth command resorts to genetic experimentation in order to produce a tactical genius capable of defeating the buggers in round two. (A counterinvasion has already been launched, but will take years to reach the buggers' home planet.) So likable but determined "Ender" Wiggins, age six, becomes Earth's last hope—when his equally talented elder siblings Peter (too vicious and vindictive) and Valentine (too gentle and sympathetic) prove unsuitable. And, in a dramatic, brutally convincing series of war games and computer-fantasies, Ender is forced to realize his military genius, to rely on nothing and no-one but himself. . . and to disregard all rules in order to win. There are some minor, distracting side issues here: wrangles among Ender's adult trainers; an irrelevant subplot involving Peter's attempt to take over Earth. And there'll be no suspense for those familiar with the short story.

Still, the long passages focusing on Ender are nearly always enthralling—the details are handled with flair and assurance—and this is altogether a much more solid, mature, and persuasive effort than Card's previous full-length appearances.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1984

ISBN: 0812550706

Page Count: 356

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1984

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