Viewpoints Critical: Selected Stories Hardcover – Mar 18 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. This impressive collection of reprints dating back to 1973 and a handful of new stories displays Modesitt's breadth of experience and knowledge to great effect. The Great American Economy mocks those who micromanage the national economy for political advantage. Rule of Law elegantly revives the age-old topic of computerized justice. Iron Man, Plastic Ships draws powerfully on Modesitt's experience as a navy helicopter pilot in Vietnam, as does The Swan Pilot, a modernized fairy tale with a twist. Beyond the Obvious Wind connects with the Corean Chronicles as Black Ordermage and Sisters of Sarronnyn, Sisters of Westwind do with the Recluce saga. As in Modesitt's novels, eloquent prose and skilled characterization are evident, only slightly diminished by occasional outbreaks of slow pacing. Readers will find this an excellent showcase of a very fine writer's highest quality work. (Mar.)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
"The Great American Economy" (Analog, 1973) is SF only because it anticipated the future, since it relates a tale of cyber crime.
"Second Coming" (Asimov's, 1979) is an SF story relating the adventures of Jimboy Wright during an earlier mission.
"Rule of Law" (Analog, 1981) is another story that is SF only because it anticipated the future, describing the use of computers to develop profiles of judges, prosecutors and other aspects of criminal trials.
"Iron Man, Plastic Ships" (Asimov's, 1979) is an SF story explaining how an acting Captain reacted to inferior procurement methods.
"Power to ...?" (Analog, 1990) is an SF story about the development of an efficient and effective fusion reactor.
"Precision Set" (On Spec, 2001) is an SF story about future sports and their effect on the people involved.
"Fallen Angel" (Flights, 2004) is a fantasy story about a resident of Hell who gets calls for his services from the angels.
"Understanding" (On Spec, 2000) is a fantasy story describing how a man got his wish and regretted it.
"News Clips Recovered from the NYC Ruins" (The Leading Edge, 2005) is an SF story covering the decline of American education and the consequences.
"The Pilots" (In the Shadow of the Wall, 2002) is a fantasy story about three pilots, one a ghost from the Vietnam War.
"The Dock to Heaven" (Low Port, 2003) is an ambiguous story about an infosnark who does a favor for the angels. Are the supernatural terms metaphorical or real?
"Ghost Mission" (Slipstreams, 2006) is a fantasy story from the Ghost series, describing how a ghost saved a zombie from her killer.
"Spec-Ops" (Future Weapons of War, 2007) is an SF story recounting the perils of remote control warfare.
"Sisters of Sarronnym, Sisters of Westwind" (UNIVERSE, 2006) is a fantasy story about the founding of the Recluce settlement.
"The Difference" (Man vs. Machine, 2007) is an SF story telling of the perils of religion among computers.
"The Swan Pilot" (Emerald Magic, 2004) is another ambiguous story about the pilot of a starship and the interludes that he encounters on the voyage. Are the interludes merely delusions or do they have some reality?
Several stories draw from the author's experiences as a Navy helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War. "Iron Man, Plastic Ships" comes from the McNamara effort to reduce the costs of fighting a war. In the long run, such methods actually cost more -- in lives if not in materiel -- than the rather chaotic processes used before and after that administration. Similar thinking still occurs among the politicians in Congress and elsewhere.
Other stories draw from the author's memories of the EPA and subsequent consulting work. "Power to ...?" shows the extreme complexity of global warming. It also warns of the hazards of ham-handed political solutions.
These stories are entertaining and thought provoking. Like the best speculative fiction, they illustrate future possibilities. Read and enjoy!
Highly recommended for Modesitt fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of exotic locales, enigmatic situations, and interesting people.
-Arthur W. Jordin
Reviewing collections/anthologies can often be tedious and difficult work, but not in this case. Modesitt delivers a range of writings that should satisfy the pickiest reader. Some of the stories will make one wonder how science fiction writers seem so often to be soothsayers, e.g., "The Great American Economy" and, if you're a cynic like me, "Rule of Law." Having thought this, another story will chill you with a possible future that seems both potential and frightening (and, perhaps, close), "News Clips Recovered From NYC Ruins." Other stories introduce you to characters in his books and fill gaps in their lives, while managing to stand on their own merit as separate tales. Still other stories will ask the reader to reach out mentally and spiritually to expand beyond the mundane and to transcend what is often perceived as 'reality.' At least one will take you to the past in a different way, "The Pilots."
***** If you're a Modesitt fan or just like good science fiction and fantasy, "Viewpoints Critical" is a must read. Instead of Gump's box of chocolates, "Viewpoints Critical" is more like a bouquet of flowers, with each story contributing to the splendor of the arrangement. It gets highest ratings and earns a permanent place in my collection...very few of the books I review earn that status. *****
Reviewed by Dr. Phil Rhyne for Huntress Reviews.
The stories were tight, quick and relatively easy to digest - at least on the surface. Strongly recommended, particularly to those who have read his work before. Perhaps less enjoyable for those who might pick read him for the first time.
read a selection of his early writings. Each story was a gem to be enjoyed. And I added to my collection
of Mr. Modesitt's Imager series.