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22 Nov 1997

Triplanetary and First Lensman, by Edward E. Smith, Ph.D. (Old Earth Books, Nov 1997, $15.00 each). Before Babylon 5, before Star Wars and Star Trek, there was E. E. ''Doc'' Smith, the granddaddy of the space opera. These are the first two of the classic ''Lensman'' series, Smith's most grandiose achievement, a six volume cycle once titled ''The History of Civilization''. These editions are facsimiles of the original Fantasy Press editions, with illustrations by A. J. Donnell. John Clute provides an astute introduction (identical in both books) that aptly assesses Smith's place in SF history. The famous first line of the first volume sets the series' scope: ''Two thousand million or so year ago two galaxies were colliding.'' (First published 1948 and 1950; earlier as magazine serials.)
The Artificial Kid, Bruce Sterling; The Silicon Man, Charles Platt; White Light, Rudy Rucker (Hardwired, Fall 1997, $12.95 each) Three novels in a reprint series dubbed ''Cortext: Science Fiction that Changed the World'' from a publisher called HardWired (the website has no information on these books however), despite the dispute (which you can read about here) over that word with Walter Jon Williams. All three volumes are lesser-known but worthy efforts that lie on the periphery of cyberpunk. Sterling's 1980 novel, his second, is described by Colin Greenland in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction as ''far-future picaresque. While its shockproof milieu of glamorized youth, martial arts and omnipotent technology recalls the early work of Samuel R. Delany, the novel also looks forward to the cyberpunk subgenre...'' (Platt first published 1991; Rucker, 1980.)
The Prestige, Christopher Priest (Tor, Oct 1997, $14.95, trade paperback) An unusual, highly compelling fantasy novel about two rival magicians at the turn of the 20th century, with SF elements -- one of them hires Nikola Tesla to invent a matter transporter. Winner of the World Fantasy Award as best novel of 1995. Gary K. Wolfe, in the April 1997 Locus, praised its ''novelistic virtues: its intricate arrangement of interlocking narratives and viewpoints, its measured and elegant style, its construction of characters who are convincingly imperfect and ultimately tragic. ... It's quite a show.''
The Ascent of Wonder, edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer (Tor, Sep 1997, $27.95, trade paperback) An enormous anthology tracing the development and the meaning of the rigorous core of science fiction known as "hard SF". The editors include more under that term than many readers or writers would, but they develop their thesis in long introductions and copious story notes. Stories includes works by Benford, Blish, Clarke, Asimov, Sterling, Niven, Wells, and dozens of others. An interactive introduction to the book, including story notes, is available here. (First published 1994.)
The Steampunk Trilogy, Paul Di Filippo (Four Walls Eight Windows, Oct 1997, $14.95, trade paperback) Three novellas (one original to the book) from one of SF's most original voices, representing ''steampunk'' -- SF set in the 19th century, especially Victorian London, involving imaginative extrapolation of the science and technology of the era. Di Filippo tells tales about Queen Victoria herself; Louis Agassiz, the Harvard naturalist; Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. ''A delight and an astonishment'' wrote Gary K. Wolfe in the April 1995 Locus. (First published 1995.)
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