Review: Starlight 1, edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden

Starlight 1 won a World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology; one of its stories, Jane Yolen's "Sister Emily's Lightship," won a Nebula for Best Short Story; and stories from it were nominated for a whole slew of awards.

And yes, it's really that good.

There are twelve stories in this anthology of original science fiction and fantasy. Only two of them failed to grab me; these two, "The Cost to Be Wise" by Maureen McHugh and "The Weighing of Ayre" by Gregory Feeley, appear to be two of the more critically acclaimed ("The Cost to Be Wise" was nominated for a Hugo and a Nebula; "The Weighing of Ayre" was nominated for a Sturgeon Award). I certainly do not claim that they are bad stories; for some reason, though, I just did not find them appealing.

I was, on the other hand, completely blown away by the other story that received multiple award nominations (a Nebula and a Sturgeon), John M. Ford's "Erase/Record/Play: A Drama for Print." (It's nice to know that I'm not completely out of line with the SF awards...) This brilliant story layers the comedic mental manipulations from A Midsummer Night's Dream with the tragic ones from a memory-loss drug (Lethe Experimental) used in re-education-turned-death camps. Ford is an astonishing writer, and he is at the top of his form here.

There are other very good stories in this collection as well, though none had as great an impact on me as "Erase/Record/Play." I particularly liked Martha Soukup's "Waking Beauty," a quiet, sensual fantasy whose premise will be familiar to anyone who's ever sleepwalked through a boring job; "Killing the Morrow" by Robert Reed, an interesting approach to the classic "grandfather paradox" of time travel; Michael Swanwick's "The Dead," a science-fictional zombie tale; and "Mengele's Jew" by Carter Scholz, in which Josef Mengele meets Schrödinger's cat. However, there's a wide range of quality stories here; you're almost guaranteed to find something that will suit. Don't believe me? Go out and read it yourself.

%T  Starlight 1
%E  Nielsen Hayden, Patrick
%C  New York
%I  Tor
%D  1996
%G  0-312-86215-6
%P  316pp
%O  trade paperback 

Copyright April 23, 1999 by Kate Nepveu.

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