From Publishers Weekly
The best of the 12 mostly SF stories in this collection from British author Crowther (The Longest Single Note
) evoke a genuine sense of wonder and offer near-miraculous restoration of hope. The title tale opens with silver spaceships departing an Earth doomed by an approaching asteroid. After some clever insights into modern culture's need for hyperbolic metaphors to understand simple reality, the story meanders into a poignant parable about resurrection and reconnection in a world where "it's impossible to figure out who's dead and who's alive." Somewhere along the way it becomes a gentle encomium to both humanity and the city of New Orleans. The deck of time and fate is shuffled and reshuffled as an assassin seeks to fulfill a contract in the well-crafted, multi-leveled "The Killing of Davis-Davis." Its time-travel theme provides the basis for both compelling action and temporal contemplation. "Setting Free the Daughters of Earth" is less technically accomplished, but no less fascinating with its premise of a drug-dependent future in which only one addictive substance is forbidden: books. Like Ray Bradbury, who is intentionally invoked, Crowther enchants as he tells deceptively simple tales of eternal truths.
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Crowther's collection opens with a magnificent homage to Ray Bradbury, "Some Burial Place, Vast and Dry" (the title is one of several references to Whitman), in which the last survivor of a lost colony remembers his home and is visited by it. Despite that tough first act, the quality of what follows remains consistent. That includes a few more tributes to Bradbury, including "Setting Free the Daughters of the Earth," a variation of Fahrenheit 451
in which one of the last bibliophiles subversively reintroduces literature to a bookless society. Crowther doesn't limit himself to thoughtful tributes. In "Heroes and Villains," he provides insight into the real life of a supervillain, for even supervillains have mothers. He also tackles such classic themes as alien visitation, time travel in the strange "Palindromic," and cloning in "A Worse Place Than Hell," in which Abraham Lincoln is lost in modern-day New York. These lovely and thoughtful stories are speculative fiction at pretty much its best, conjuring self-contained worlds that, for all the stories' brevity, teem with life. Regina SchroederCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved