Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Is Anybody Out There? - My Review

4.5 Out Of 5 Stars

Is Anybody Out There? is a wonderfully crafted anthology edited by Marty Halpern and Nick Gevers focused on the observations of Enrico Fermi regarding the existence of extraterrestrial life.

Fermi’s Paradox for those of you who don’t know it states simply: The apparent size and age of the universe suggest that many technologically advanced extraterrestrial civilizations ought to exist. However, this hypothesis seems inconsistent with the lack of observational evidence to support it (Wikipedia).

Before I launch into my review, I should say that I attended the premiere panel launch for this book at ReaderCon21 earlier this summer. I had the extreme pleasure in speaking with Marty Halpern, Paul Di Filippo, Yves Maynard (and yes my son is now taking French so he can read some of your other work for himself!), and my old friend James Morrow.

Yves Meynard, Marty Halpern (standing) and James Morrow - ReaderCON21

I found Marty to be gracious with his time, and his discussion on what he and co-editor Nick Gevers went through to bring this marvelous collection to our book stores was both daunting and rewarding. Paul Di Filippo was exactly as I expected him to be--passionate, funny and a brilliant speaker. Yves Maynard, with his quiet intensity was an absolute joy to speak to and Jim--with his flair for the dramatic, was the perfect choice not only for the panel, but also as the final author in the anthology.

The group of shorts in this tome reflect both the flavor and intrigue of the simple question: Are we alone in the universe?

A few author highlights, as I could go on for pages…and I’d rather you spend the time reading the anthology rather than a long-winded review!

Paul McAuley kicks off his take on the Paradox with Enrico Fermi himself engaged in a discussion of this very question. An overview of the paradox and theories surrounding the question of ETs sets the stage beautifully for the reader.

The writer-meeting-his-own-alien-creation story by Yves Meynard is a wonderful take on man’s desire to know answers, and the less-than-satisfying results knowing brings.

The wonderfully fun Report from the Field by Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn is a kooky alien Dan Rather type story with an extra terrestrial’s take on Earth and all that is humankind.

Paul Di Filippo’s Galaxy of Mirrors is a tale spun with good humor and in grandiose style about the fate of two hapless lovers and their encounter with the World Thinker.

Graffiti in the Library of Babel by David Langford is a great first contact story about aliens who try to get our earthly attention by communicating to us via our own historical records.

The paranormal mystery of Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s The Dark Man tale is a neat take on a “what if” story. Think along the lines of Scully actually finding PROOF that Mulder’s conspiracy theories were spot on.

The final tale in this collection, James Morrow’s The Vampires of Paradox is an investigative piece on paradoxes themselves. Twisted logic and mind-bending questions are asked and the answers that arise are told in a way that Jim pulls off brilliantly.

Overall, this is a marvelous collection of stories, some I’ve touched on, others just as intriguing and entertaining, and leaves the reader with one final paradox: How many different ways are there to ask Is Anybody Out There?


martyhalpern said...

Hi, Richard,

Our chat was all too brief at Readercon, so I'll look forward to our meeting again in the near future.

And thanks too for the kind words about the anthology; but more importantly, I'm pleased that you enjoyed the stories.

If your blog readers make their way to my blog -- More Red Ink -- they can read quite a bit more about the anthology, along with the complete text of six of the stories (including two you mention above, the stories by Kris Rusch and David Langford).

Thanks again.
Cheers, and all best,
Marty Halpern

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