The Berkley Showcase – New Writings in Science Fiction and Fantasy (1980) – What do you do with an anthology where you liked some of the stories and didn’t care for the others? I guess I’ll just go down the table of contents and give you my opinion of each one. This anthology had no specific theme and contains both fantasy and science fiction stories.
Soldier of an Empire Unacquainted with Defeat by Glen Cook – This may be the entire key to the unevenness of this anthology. Glen Cook’s retired soldier who stumbles upon a poor family in need of his services is one of Glen’s best stories. Taking place in his Black Company world of warriors and wizards, this story shows Glen at his best. Well-written, exciting, and filled with conflict and drama, it kind of skews the grading curve for the rest of the book.
Hear Today by Freff – Short and clever, this quick tale is told from a kid’s viewpoint and involves time travelling sound waves, a slutty neighbor, and instant puberty. How Freff managed to cram all these into five pages, I’ll never know, but it’s cheeky and fun.
Child of Darkness by P.C. Hodgell – I’ve never cared for talking animal stories (except maybe Redwall) and this story is no exception. Slowly and painfully, the hero’s real character is revealed as he struggles to save a dead comrade on a twisted campus where students are brain-wiped if they don’t make the grade. There’s an awful lot going on and an awful lot of characters running in and out. The slow reveal of the hero made me nuts. If the writer could see him for the creature he was, why couldn’t we? Not one of my favs.
Dolls’ Eyes by Karl Hansen – The hero, a beautiful creature of the night (a pepper) who produces LSD-like substances from his/her (we never really discover which gender but it doesn’t matter) molars and is chased after by people addicted to the saliva (pepheads). It’s a dark dystopia tale where everyone seems to know the story but the protagonist. Atmospheric and dark, it kept me turning pages pretty fast.
To See by Edward Bryant – I’m also not a big fan of experimental formatting either. This story is mainly made up of snippets of information about the expanding universe and one girl who sees herself growing old and young over and over again. She asks her guardian what will happen to her/the universe, but only she has the courage to look. Short and strange. I’m not a big fan of repetitive, experimental formatting.
Lord Torpedo, Lord Gyroscope by R.A. Lafferty – A perfect man – a genius and master at multi-tasking – meets the perfect woman, and they build a perfect mansion in a perfect community. Mentally and physically, there is nothing they can’t do, but when someone notices that people around them aren’t as bright as they should be, their true imperfections reveal themselves.
Hejira by Eric Van Lustbader – A time traveler from the future attends the most incredible rock concert in history and interviews the rock star. That’s it.
Song of Mutes by Ross Appel – This story was compelling. What happens when a ship loses its faster than light drive and the colorful crew is trapped far in the past? When the crew starts disappearing, the captain is afraid she may know the reason why. I loved this story. It’s not everyone who can integrate suspense into science fiction.
The Foetus by Thomas M. Disch – A story of demonic possession told from the viewpoint of the mother. She is driven to find the man who will satisfy her unborn child’s need for destruction and death. A little predictable.