“The High House” is a startlingly original book. It is, in some ways, young adult fantasy. In other ways, it is fully adult allegory. Naturally, such double effect, whether of allegory or some other adult theme, is the hallmark of all great fiction putatively directed at the young, from the “Chronicles of Narnia” to “Alice In Wonderland.” (This is why I think that in a few decades, nobody will remember Harry Potter—sure, it’s original, in many ways, but it is what it is. There is nothing to unpack.) Much of the allegory in “The High House” is Christian, or rather Judeo-Christian, as well as conservative in its view of reality, aside from religion. But the book is compelling simply as a fiction read, for young adult or old adult.
I have read all of the Dozois annual collections. And this one, the thirty-third, is the best. I applaud Dozois’ bold ability to collect stories that, whatever their merits as literature or entertainment, truly show a path forward. A path forward from historical oppression of womyn; of those of color; of gender non-binaries; and of the sexually fluid and/or non-conforming; and towards the world of LGBTQQIP2SAA unshackling, with total autonomic self-actualization free of bigotry and hatred. So rather than boring the reader of this review with plot summaries, since plot after all doesn’t matter when pursuing social justice, I’ll instead note the individual areas where Dozois’ story choices succeed so well.
“The Three-Body Problem” is a science fiction novel, of the “hard” subgenre, that has received a great deal of attention. Much of that attention is due to a political tussle among science fiction fans, where some believe that various unworthy writings have been exalted by the establishment merely to make a political point about supposed under-representation by authors of certain types, including non-American authors. This book was nominated for the top awards in science fiction, and won the Hugo Award. Whether it “deserved” the Hugo I can’t say, having little basis for comparison in my own reading. But I can say the book is very good—with some non-trivial shortcomings.
“Dangerous Visions” is a semi-legendary compilation of science fiction stories, originally published in 1967, most of them written by legendary science fiction authors. The compilation features both the stories themselves, and for each an introduction and postscript by Harlan Ellison (himself legendary). There is also a longer set of introductions, forwards, etc., at the beginning of the book, including new ones written in 2002 to celebrate the thirty-fifth anniversary of this tedious, silly book of stridently bad stories.
This is a neat little set of apocalypse stories. While I haven’t read the two subsequent books, my understanding is that most of these stories are continued in the later books, but they are also stand-alone stories, about the time and moments right before the end (or effective end) of the world. Some are clever, some are a bit obvious, but most are worth reading.
Since I was a small child, I have read science fiction, and lots of it. For decades, I’ve read all types, from H.G. Wells through 1930s pulp through 1950s “golden age” through 1970s trippy through modern (the latter in all its broad range from “hard” to “socially conscious”, i.e., culturally leftist stories lacking the “science” in “science fiction”). I suspect science fiction has materially shaped my own world view. I don’t know why I like science fiction, particularly—perhaps just taste, like some people like Westerns or detective stories, or maybe it’s the wide-open possibilities that science fiction tends to envision.
While it’s in many ways a typical version of the apocalyptic genre currently fashionable, this book is quite good. It has some significant originality, and is generally compelling and well-drawn. Aside from a few jarring factual problems that should have been caught by editors (pistol triggers don’t not move if the magazine is empty–the hammer or striker still falls; and they’re called “magazines,” not “clips”), it’s well-crafted.