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Is Anybody Out There [Mass Market Paperback]

Nick Gevers , Marty Halpern

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Book Description

June 1 2010

Beyond our skies...and imaginations.

Are we alone in the universe, and if not, who else-or what else-is out there? Here are thought-provoking stories that explore such questions as: Do intelligent species invariably destroy themselves by nuclear war or ecological collapse? Are the sentient aliens that do exist just too far away? Do they exist in forms beyond our comprehension? Are they among us, but undetectable? These are just some of the possibilities explored by a stellar lineup of contributors.


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: DAW (June 1 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0756406196
  • ISBN-13: 978-0756406196
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 10.3 x 16.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 159 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #30,955 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a wonderful anthology! Aug. 11 2010
By R. B. Wood - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
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.

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?
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Anthology of the Fermi Paradox Aug. 1 2010
By The Mad Hatter - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Theme anthologies can go one of two ways. Either they work really well or they end up feeling like the writers had to stretch themselves too much to create a story that worked for the theme. Is Anybody Out There? focused on the Fermi Paradoxes is decidedly in the camp of the former with a couple virtuosos in the short game truly standing out and a few others not working for me as they seemed a bit disorienting.

Paul McAuley starts things off well with an introduction for those not in the know about the Fermi Paradox with a grand overview and a bit of history and known theories. The paradox boils down to "Where are they?" The Universe is so big and that old if there is intelligent life out there why haven't they found us or we found them yet? Quite an intriguing idea for writers to sink their teeth into. This is ground that has been trod on before, but certainly never with such a diverse covering of new, established, and often fringe theories.

Mike Resnick & Lezli Robyn, "Report From the Field" A very quirky tale done in field report style from an alien determining if Earth is ready for inclusion in Galactic Community.

This story had me chortling left and right like few other writer can do and the only funny story in the bunch. In many ways humor is more difficult to relay in written form than something dramatic or action oriented. Resnick and Robyn excel at the funny asides as well as the satirical while this particular alien sees us at an skewed angle from viewing our television, movies, and documentaries trying to make sense of what they selected. There are perfect examples of humanity's absurd and violent side, which make me question our place in the cosmos and the fact that if there is life out there we'd probably just screw up first contact.

Jay Lake's "Permanent Fatal Errors" takes us on a space voyage with a crew of altered human immortals who are guinea pigs for longer interstellar missions. Only who among the crew actually wants to achieve the objectives of this mission?

Told from the point of view of the lowest member of the crew who sees himself as a baby next to the rest of the very old and intelligent crew as he tries to make his way through their murky machinations. An astrological anomaly confounds the crew and a conspiracy is afoot, but just who is doing what? Lake certainly shows his suspenseful flair as there is something out there. And it wants to be found. The story definitely felt unfinished though, but some nice turns more than kept my attention.

David Langford's "Graffiti in the Library of Babel" is a most unusual first contact story. Someone or something has been marking up an important world database with odd notations. What do they want?

An intelligence has downloaded our history and science and are trying to communicate with us through it. This reminded me a lot of a Robert J. Sawyer story in the making with some very nice dialogue. I couldn't connect with any character though, but the situation grabbed me from the first page as the character tries to write back somehow.

In Kristine Kathryn Rusch's "The Dark Man" a shadow shaped like a man shows up every decade or so on the steps of a very old Cathedral in Italy.

Rusch's background as a mystery writer shines through this tale told in a very different tact than the rest as an investigative reporter takes on paranormal events to find out the truth behind them, but she has finally found a case she can't explain away as a hoax. Rusch takes the idea of a classic conspiracy and twists it into Sci-Fi spectacularly. This was my second favorite story of the bunch.

Pat Cadigan, "The Taste of Night" delves into the mental contact aspects of alien communication with people supposedly suffering mental illness and one of my favorite disorders synesthesia. If you don't know what synesthesia is than go read the wiki as I'd love to see more stories working it in.

Synesthesia causes the senses to get crossed and people associate colors with certain numbers, words, or even days of the week. What if people who had this ability were able to be contacted by aliens? Would we believe them or just call them mad? A really well done story all around. Wonderful psychology angle questions the sanity of people and how we could be missing something right in front of us.

Ian Watson's "A Waterfall of Lights" again takes the tact of alien contact through our minds, but gives it a good twist.

If there are aliens they could have died out millions of years ago, but what if they left a legacy behind that was still out there? What would they look like? A surprisingly good story from a writer new to me despite having been around for decades. The story is very similar to the work Robert Charles Wilson has been doing with his Spin books, which is probably why I like it so much. The ending was left hanging quite a bit, but watch out for those eyes.

James Morrow, "The Vampires of Paradox" put us in present times with a religious order that is keeping a terrible event at bay by contemplating logic paradoxes along the lines of "if a tree falls in the woods with no one around does it make a sound?" The paradoxes mentioned are further reaching though and even more mind-bending.

No one does philosophical conundrums as well as Morrow and his stripes are still more than up to the task but ends up feeling a bit of heavy handed at times. Still it fits the given setting and style. Morrow is still a master of short fiction and this was by far the strongest story of the lot and was rightly chosen to end the anthology. The inclusion of this story along makes the book worth picking up. This could also be seen as the best paradox lecture you've ever attended. I could definitely see it being referenced in some logic classes.

Is Anybody Out There? is great cross section of Fermi Paradox ideas packed with wonder. Wonders of science. Of confounding mysteries. Of what could be's. Of what should be that is well worth dipping into. A few stories left me indifferent or just plain lost, but the Morrow, Rusch, and Watson's stories more than make this volume worth grabbing.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too many high-concept pieces Feb. 15 2012
By H. Grove (errantdreams) - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
In attempting to write something new regarding aliens, many writers get tempted to write high-concept surreal pieces, often ones designed to leave us with dangling questions or inspire a realization in us. This can be done well, and of course the line between thought-provoking and obtuse will be different for each reader. However, to do this risks creating a story that confuses or bores instead of inspires, makes things muddier rather than providing insight. Too many of the stories in this book came down on the latter side of things.

There are several stories in here that feel as though they're surreal just for the sake of being surreal. There are others that try to be both interesting concept pieces and good stories, and only sort-of succeed (admittedly a tough line to ride in a short story, but it's possible). Thankfully there are a few that show what can really be done with the combination of concept, plot, and character, such as James Morrow's "The Vampires of Paradox", David Langford's "Graffiti in the Library of Babel," and Kristine Kathryn Rusch's "The Dark Man."

Overall my feeling on this one is kind of "meh".

[NOTE: review book provided by publisher]
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really worth reading Dec 10 2010
By Paul Lappen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is a bunch of new science fiction stories exploring that age-old question: Is mankind alone in the universe?

A husband and wife laying outside on a clear night talk about aliens. Among the husband's speculations are that aliens home in on a psychological signal given off by one person alone. That is why sightings are always in rural areas, and never in the city. The aliens could be here already, but out of phase with humanity.

A moderately-famous writer penned a series of stories about a human and his alien sidekick. In a dream, or delusion, the alien comes to life and tells him the truth about the universe. An alien scout is sent to Earth to offer it membership in the Galactic Community. Watching some electromagnetic transmissions, he/she/it is horrified by the state of present-day Earth society. Aliens can show up in the strangest places; inside a brown dwarf star, inside the human eye and as parasitic blobs that attach themselves to humans, and seem to thrive on human philosophical paradoxes. Throughout the galaxy, various alien species are uplifted to sentience seemingly in the blink of an eye.

Mankind has a hard enough time communicating with non-human intelligence here on Earth, so how is Man supposed to recognize a message from an alien intelligence? Aliens might also show themselves through graffiti-like tags in e-books in a supposedly invulnerable digital library. In present-day Rome, a humanoid figure all in black appears at a certain spot, with absolute regularity, about every ten and a half years. Perhaps it is an alien out of phase with humanity. A homeless woman can't escape the feeling that one of her six physical senses has disappeared.

These are not just SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) stories. They do a very good job of showing that aliens can appear almost anywhere. They will keep the reader entertained, and are really worth reading.

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