Sep. 3rd, 2006 09:07 am
threemonkeys: (Waxlion)
I have a mild sense of dissatisfaction with Bruce Sterling's latest collection Visionary in Residence and it isn't with the stories. Apart from one incomprehensible collaboration with Paul De Filippo the contents are the usual playful idea driven work that we expect from Sterling. The stories cover a range from a "here and now" story written in such a way as to emphasise how much things have changed in the last 50 years to a bit of alternate "aliens among us" history to a number of stories about fundamental changes to society driven by wild new technology. I do enjoy the way Sterling just throws ideas out there - and I mean way out there. Often they are not really stories so much as slices of life but not our life. So that is the good part.

The vague rumblings start when looking at the collection as a whole. It has no coherence or flow at all. The types of stories just jump around with nothing to connect them. This can be easily explained I think. Sterling isn't writing all that much short fiction these days. These stories represent everything he has written for the last 5 or 6 years. You get the impression that his publisher said "how about a collection" and they dragged up everything that hadn't been put in earlier collections, saw that at 70,000 words it was enough so just threw it together on the pages. The 70K words thing is another irritation to me. I feel cheated when a book is obviously padded to make it look bigger. This book has lots of blank pages between stories, generous margins and wide line spacing. The effect is to make it physically look like a 100K word volume. The thing is, I would be quite happy with a 70K volume in a smaller (slimmer) package - it is just the deceit that gets me.

Putting the minor irritations aside, when it comes down to it, it is the stories that really matter. As noted above there is a lot of idea driven fun to be had with Visionary in Residence.


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