First-per­son Sin­gu­lar­i­ties

Robert Sil­ver­berg John Scalzi (Con­trib­u­tor) Three Rooms Press (OC­TO­BER) Soft­cover $19.95 (384pp) 978-1-941110-63-8

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Fiction - SU­SAN WAG­GONER

Sil­ver­berg’s sci­ence fic­tion stands head and shoul­ders above other works in the genre.

The short sto­ries in Robert Sil­ver­berg’s First­per­son Sin­gu­lar­i­ties are in­ven­tive, sub­lime, and end­lessly en­ter­tain­ing.

All eighteen pieces are nar­rated in the first per­son—though “per­son” is some­what mis­lead­ing, as the cast of nar­ra­tors in­cludes Greek gods, sen­tient an­i­mals, aliens, com­put­ers, and time trav­el­ers twenty thou­sand years out of their el­e­ment. Sil­ver­berg, one of sci­ence fic­tion’s lit­er­ary giants, has a sixty-year ca­reer to draw from, yet even sto­ries writ­ten decades ago feel fresh.

Though all the sto­ries could be clas­si­fied as sci­ence fic­tion or fan­tasy, there is noth­ing gim­micky or repet­i­tive about them. Each piece be­gins with an imag­i­na­tive setup, and is set head and shoul­ders above oth­ers in the genre by quickly evolv­ing into a drama that is be­liev­ably hu­man.

In the Ne­bula Award-win­ning story “Pas­sen­gers,” a man whose body has been tem­porar­ily taken over by an alien awakes with a ter­ri­ble hang­over and no rec­ol­lec­tion of what went on the night be­fore. In the out­stand­ing “The Re­al­ity Trip,” an in­sect-like alien liv­ing in a man­u­fac­tured hu­man body seeks to de­ter a would-be lover by show­ing her his true form. One catch: it’s the 1960s, and the set­ting is New York’s Chelsea Ho­tel, and in the age of acid-washed brains, the as­pir­ing lover is un­fazed by—but slightly un­sure of—what she’s seen.

All char­ac­ters are well de­vel­oped and con­vinc­ing in their roles, and the var­ied tone of the sto­ries makes for lively read­ing. Play­ful ref­er­ences to Greek myths and lit­er­ary clas­sics abound, as in a story that takes the form of a di­ary kept by Henry James. Other pieces turn fa­mil­iar sci-fi plots up­side down: “To See the In­vis­i­ble Man” is not about phys­i­cal in­vis­i­bil­ity, but about a gov­ern­ment’s power to con­vince peo­ple not to see what’s right be­fore their eyes.

Author in­tro­duc­tions to each piece add fas­ci­nat­ing in­sights into the busi­ness craft of writ­ing and the ran­dom in­flu­ences that shape sto­ry­telling. By any mea­sure, First-per­son Sin­gu­lar­i­ties is grade-a read­ing fod­der.

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