You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Monday, February 12, 2007

New Dreams for Old

I found Mike Resnick's New Dreams for Old at the library and picked it up thinking it would be good reading for times when I didn't have anything else handy to read. It's a collection of short stories, many of them award winning or nominated for awards.

The collection starts strong, with "Robots Don't Cry", about the discovery of an old deactivated robot on a colonized planet. The robot was a caretaker robot who displays grief over the loss of its charge.

"The Elephants on Neptune" is my favorite story. It's an odd piece about the first time men land on Neptune and find a group of elephants. The elephants, a peaceful species, and the men, an agressive species, both change from the mysterious power of Neptune. The two species discuss the relative merits of their societies: the inventions of man versus the nonviolent lives of the elephants.

Most of the rest of the stories are not as inspired. "Travels with My Cats" is a sweet story about a man who meets the long dead author of a book that he has come to love. "A Princess of Earth" and "Down Memory Lane" are also stories of love lost.

"Old MacDonald Had a Farm" is a very amusing story about a genetically engineered animal that grows fast, eats efficiently, and tastes delicious. However it has one strange flaw.

There are several light stories about John Justin Mallory, a character from Resnick's only fantasy novel. These are somewhat amusing but virtually void of substance. There are also some stories based on Resnick's world where African nations have colonized another world, bringing their culture with them. These are a little enlightening, but not as amusing as the rest.

There are a coule of short bits of humor, like "Unsafe at Any Speed", about Superman's problems with his super speed, and "Kemosabee", about the Hebrew Tonto and his goy friend the Lone Ranger.

"Guardian Angel" is a space detective novella. It was adequate, but nothing special. "Keepsakes" is a sort of detective novella also, about an alien species that makes contracts with people in desperate situations for a small sum of money and one item of small value. Of course the item of small value ends up having enormous sentimental value. One of the finest stories is "The 43 Antarean Dynasties", about a tour guide on a planet with a rich and vibrant history, who has to tolerant ignorant and rude Earth tourists.

Overall I'll give the book a B-. It wasn't quite as interesting as I had hoped. The stories I'll remember most are "Robots Don't Cry", "The Elephans on Neptune", "Old MacDonald Had a Farm", and "The 43 Antarean Dynasties". These would all be an A or A-. Most of the rest are C's. Resnick's writing style is very direct and at times seemed quite plain. The dialogue is short, and while it can be very witty at times, sometimes came off as flat, almost stock dialogue. Some of his story ideas are very interesting. My favorite line, from "The Elephants On Neptune": "Our nature is that we always tell the truth. Our tragedy is that we always remember it."


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