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Space Magic 

David D. Levine

Dismissed by a bug, he thought, how much lower can you sink?"

Reviewed by Mark Dalligan

The Twenty-Fifth Annual Meeting of Uncle Teco’s Homebrew Gravitics Club is such a promising title but it was the one story in the collection I just couldn’t come to like. See what you think. Luckily, it’s quite a way into the book so I was more than armoured by the fresh and fantastic offerings this Hugo winner has for his readers. I can’t recommend more highly the fourteen remaining stories that span as many worlds. Believe me, as an SF & Fantasy fan for close to a light year, from me this is high praise. My favourites are:

Nucleon: a Golden Age story which in some respects favourably reminded me of Clifford D. Simak’s 1959 Hugo winner The Big Front Yard. Imagine a sentient scrap yard choc-a-bloc full of whatever you need, when you need it. Imagine the place isn’t bounded by time so you could find just anything among the junk, even remnants from the future. Wouldn’t that be a kind of Heaven? Couldn’t association with it change your perspective on life? 

Brotherhood is a critical portrait of tensions running high in an American steel town in the 1930s. The focal point is a steel mill run to a ruthless budget that sucks the vitality, and sometimes the souls, from its dollar-dependent workforce. The labourers honour their obligations to the families they support. The bosses, well, their savagery in protecting their money and position make them caricatures of all that was bad about that time. The tale cleverly incorporates a supernatural theme and wraps this around the need for personal honour. 

Wind from a Dying Star follows a band of the last humans, now evolved into unrecognisable space dwelling beings that graze on radiation, the last remnants of energy in a cooling Universe. Threatened by space carnivores and listening to the need of their ancient Wiseman, they travel back to Mother Earth. An epic voyage between stars dictated as much by compassion as hunger. 

Tk’ Tk’ Tk won the 2006 Hugo Award for Best Short Story. It follows an intergalactic salesman (imagine those 1950s/60s caricatures of the man with a suitcase full of samples) as he negotiates with an entirely alien species. Witness his travails, despite a stock of the latest gizmos Science can offer, to understand non-human points of view and an unfathomable culture. A challenging, life changing experience. 

Ecology of Fairie has a teenage girl coping with one of the ghastly medical intrusions that can afflict family members and strain understanding. Living in a budget dwelling of corroding alloy, croaking frogs the background to your concern about a nearest and dearest, what do you don’t need is more stress. Certainly not an attack by aggressive mythic beings. The lesson that you have to understand in order to survive is sorely won. 

The Tale of the Golden Eagle, an unsuccessful Hugo nomination, is at once an Arabesque tale of strange technologies and entrepreneurship but also an extreme interspecies love story. Remember Anne McCaffrey’s 1969 short story The Ship who Sang? If not, read it. There are similarities in world design with a spaceship controlled by an organic brain. McCaffrey’s universe is wholly science-based whereas there is almost a fantasy element in Levine’s. He raises questions: Is beauty worth more than gold and reputation? What makes a human? Is there a limit to sacrifice?

Read the Hugo Award-winning story Tk'Tk'Tk from this collection on Asimovs.com.

Mark Dalligan’s short fiction has appeared in a number of publications including Static Movement, MicroHorror, Bewildering Stories, Boston Literary Magazine, Ranfurly Review, Twisted Tongue and Every Day Fiction and in the SAND: Strange Tales anthology.

Mark's other Short Reviews: Kim Newman "The Secret Files of the Diogenes Club"   

Philip K. Dick "Human Is?"

Robert Shearman "Tiny Deaths"

PublisherWheatland Press

Publication Date: May 2008

Paperback/Hardback? Paperback

First collection?Yes

Awards: Winner, 2009 Endeavour Award; Short story Tk'Tk'Tk, winner, 2006 Hugo Short Story Award

Author bio: David D. Levine is an award-winning writer who won the 2006 Hugo for Best Short story and has numerous other plaudits. His work has appeared in a number of anthologies, both SF and Fantasy.

Read an interview with David D. Levine

Buy this book (used or new) from:

The Publisher's Website: Wheatland Press

Author's recommended bookseller: Wrigley-Cross Books (signed copies)





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