Sunday, August 17, 2008

Michael Resnick, New Dreams for Old

Mike Resnick's New Dreams for Old contains several very good stories. If you haven't been reading (or listening to) recent nominees for the Hugo awards, it's worth picking up. Out of 20 stories, half were nominated for or won a Hugo.

I'm a fan of Resnick, though I can't claim to be a completist. I have his name on my list of authors, so when I'm in a bookstore with time or money to spend, I make sure to look through his books and often find something interesting to read. I think he writes good adventure SF, but this collection also contains some interesting fantasy.

With short stories, the element of surprise seems more important than with longer works, so I'm hesitant to say much about these stories. There are a couple ("Robots Don't Cry", "Travels with My Cats") in which Resnick shows an ability to quickly make us care deeply about a character whether or not they're human. "The Chinese Sandman" is a wonderful evocation of the fairy tale genre, with an oriental flavor.

Some are serious investigations of serious issues; "Hothouse Flowers" and "Down Memory Lane" talk about how important quality of life is to those in their declining years. I think they make important points, even though I expect the state of medicine to improve sufficiently in the next couple of decades to make the issue obsolete.

Obligatory disclaimer: this book was provided to Prometheus, the LFS Newsletter, as a review copy. Since I'm a fan of Resnick, I jumped at the chance to read it. I'm glad I did, even though I was already familiar with the best stories in the collection.

Resnick's stories should resonate well with libertarians, even though there's nothing overtly political in them. "Guardian Angel" and "Keepsakes" take different views of dealing with criminals. In one case, the police aren't called in because the principals include ganglords, in the other, the police have to step gingerly because the "criminals" involved don't seem to have broken any laws. In both cases justice is served, though in one case justice isn't very satisfying. Resnick also has a healthy respect for self-sufficiency, and many of his characters could have come from the pages of a Heinlein story.

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