December 27th, 2002

The Friday "Morning After The Holiday" Review: The Dragons Of Springplace

Single author short story collections have now become the province of the small presses. While this means they have disappeared from the shelves of bookstores, and vanished from the midlist, it also means that they have become high quality hard cover collections, something that will last for generations.

Robert Reed is an unusual, and powerful writer. His poetic hard SF touches on similar issues to Robert Charles Wilson's: dealing with the questions of immortality, of singularities in society, and the long term future of mankind. But where other authors may offer answers, Reed asks questions. Even in the vast expanses of his galaxy circling starships there are no certainties, no solid ground: nothing today is as it will be tomorrow, there will always be changes, and new challenges.

Dragons Of Springplace brings together 11 stories from the 1990s, originally published in either Asimov's or F&SF. They include two tales set on (or in) the immense world-sized starship of his novel Marrow ("The Remoras" and "Aeon's Child"). Closer to home, the title story is one that deals with the issues of long term nuclear storage, with the eponymous dragons the stolid guardians of our poisonous effluvia. Meanwhile "Stride" is a new take on that old trope of alien hunters and human ingenuity, mixed with the loneliness of the long distance runner. "Guest of Honor" is a sad tale of immortality, cowardice, and voyeurism taken to extremes.

Reed is a lyrical writer, who extracts imagery from the most improbable of directions, pulling his readers towards a dark future, shot with strands of hope. This is the human condition writ large, stretched out on the fabric of millenia and seasoned with the subtle taste of xenophilia. We may not want to live in Reed's futures, but we need to read them, need to experience them - and above all - need to learn from them.

Wonderful stuff, from a wonderful writer, Dragons Of Springplace is challenging and entertaining - well worth adding to your SF bookshelf.
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