Worlds Enough & Time: Five Tales of Speculative Fiction

By Dan Simmons

Rating: 3 stars

I mostly enjoyed the stories in this collection. It pulls together five longer stories, more or less of novella length, along with introductions for each one. As I say, the stories are generally quite enjoyable, but the introductions are another matter. They seem to lack the discipline and editing that goes into the stories, feeling bloated and self-indulgent. The exception to this is the introduction to my favourite story in the collection, Orphans of the Helix, a story set in the universe of the Hyperion Cantos. Set some years after the end of Rise of Endymion, it was nice to return to that universe, following a group of colonists of the Amoiete Spectrum Helix, looking for a planet to settle well outside existing human space who encounter a distress signal en-route.

Of the other stories, I probably enjoyed On K2 with Kanakaredes the most, about a small group of mountain climbers who climb the world’s second-highest mountain with an alien, even if a lot of the actual mountain-climbing bits left me cold. I felt there was lots of context in The Ninth of Av that I wasn’t getting. It’s a story about the end of the world, as the post-humans get ready to put the remaining old-fashioned humans into suspended animation while they clean up the Earth. Or possibly it’s about genocide of the Jews. I think there were hints in the text, but possibly ones you need to be familiar with Judeo-Christian mythology to understand.

Looking for Kelly Dahl was interesting, about a suicidal former school teacher who has to track down one of his former pupils. And finally, The End of Gravity was possibly the least interesting to me. You know that cliché about Lit Fic being all about 50-something straight white writers who have affairs with young, pretty women? This felt sort of like that. The protagonist is an older straight white male writer, and there’s an attraction to a younger woman, and possibly some sort of metaphor involving the International Space Station that I didn’t really get. I think I found the protagonist too irritating to really pay that much attention to his internal monologue.

So a decent hit rate with stories that have a bit more room to breathe than your normal shorts. But I would mostly skip the introductions (although YMMV, as always).

Book details

ISBN: 9780060506049
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Year of publication: 2002

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