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The anthology Centaurus: The Best of Australian SF is a banquet of thought-provoking science fiction from Australia. Readers who so far have been unaware of the developing world of Australian SF will be engrossed by this diverse selection of stories chosen by World Fantasy Award-winning editor David G. Hartwell and acclaimed Australian writer Damien Broderick. Yes, Australian star Greg Egan appears, with a story ("Wang's Carpets") that embodies his humanistic approach to hard SF. But Centaurus also presents rising stars whose works deal with landscapes, concerns, and themes Australian. Take, for example, Leanne Frahm's "Borderline." Her story of a widower who has little in common with his ambitious, city-dwelling offspring, yet who wants to protect them even if it means confronting his worst fears, is made richer by its plainspoken Australian dialect. Both "The Mountain Movers" by A. Bertram Chandler and Terry Dowling's "Privateer's Moon" drench readers in the other-worldliness of Australian landscapes. The editors bookend the volume with stunning stories by George Turner ("Flowering Mandrake"), one of Australia's earliest internationally known SF writers, and Peter Carey ("The Chance"), winner of the Booker Prize for his novel Oscar and Lucinda. Every story has its own introduction, and each editor provides an introduction to the volume. Centaurus is full of imaginative fare from writers with a colorful regional perspective. --Blaise Selby
The wordcraft and imagination at play in this collection of 20 SF stories by Australian writers is quite extraordinary. The book is full of gorgeously imagined scenes on a transgalactic scale and challenging extrapolations of cutting-edge science. Hidden in the grandeur are meditations on the meaning of reality (Greg Egan's "Wang's Carpets"), motherhood (Rosaleen Love's "The Total Devotion Machine" and Shane Dix's "Matters of Consequence"), the social worth of religions (editor Broderick's own "The Magi") and gender dominance (a future lesbian society in Lucy Sussex's "My Lady Tongue," menstrual sacraments on an alternate world in Stephen Dedman's Swiftian "From Whom All Blessings Flow"). The question of tolerance comes up again and again: Islamic zealots encode the Qur'an in their DNA in Chris Lawson's "Written in Blood"; lumpen-loving ideologues take on the bodies of the underclass via a genetic lottery in Booker Prize-winner Peter Carey's intimately human and poetic "The Chance." George Turner's classic "Flowering Mandrake" pits a plant-descended "green-blood" against xenophobic Earthmen. There is enough of the quotidian, charming and homey to ground all this exotica, and there are a few neat japes, like David Lake's unique tale of time travel gone wrong, "Re-deem the Time." A few clunkers appear as well, but no stiff prose, no cloddish infodumps. Broderick's introduction is itself a fine and illuminating piece of writing, and his and Hartwell's author profiles are unusually personal. It may arise from Down Under, but this anthology is a world-class treasure. (July) FYI: The 1999 World Science Fiction Convention will be held in Melbourne in August.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.