The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge

July 3, 2004 at 12:00 am | Posted in 3 stars, Book Reviews, Science Fiction | Leave a comment
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This book has every story short of novel length Vinge has published (well, had published when this book was published) except “True Names”. This last omission is understandable, since it has been frequently collected elsewhere, but also unfortunate, since by all accounts the essays it usually is bound up with aren’t that special. Also, “True Names” is better than anything in this collection by a considerable margin. That’s not to say this is a bad collection, and I should point out I really am not much of a short story person. I’ve read a few collections but with a few notable exceptions short fiction just doesn’t grab me the way novels do. By his own admission Vinge is more of a short story writer than a novelist, but unlike other authors so described his short fiction is not nearly good as the two novels he has written in the last twenty years. Vinge is a clever technologist and knowledgeable both about science and about science fiction, so he definitely has his moments. However, his character work is not any better here, and the short length doesn’t give him the chance to weave his invariably fascinating worlds around the reader. The settings of these short stories are almost all as engaging as his novels, but they are over before the reader can really get into them. Meanwhile, crude characters work through standard plots. It makes for a decent collection but nothing more. Vinge has brief notes preceding and following most of the stories, but they are mainly notable for his unflattering honesty about the quality of some of the stories.

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