Book Review: Far Orbit Anthology, Bascomb James, editor

Well, that was fun!

Late this afternoon, I bought Far Orbit, an anthology of “Speculative Space Adventures,” edited by Bascomb James, to keep me company over the three-day Labor Day Weekend. Short stories, after all. Easy to put down and pick up again. Now what? Because I just finished it, swallowing it in almost one sitting (there was that pesky interruption of dinner).

Thirteen short stories, and not a clinker in the bunch. The book begins with an open letter from Elizabeth Bear to SF, reminding the genre that it’s okay to have a sense of humor, to “…have a little pleasure again.” And then the rest of the book goes on to prove just how good that can be.

The collection encompasses hard science to space opera, and it’s hard for me to choose a favorite. They all have memorable–some are downright sticky–characters. “Open for Business” by Sam S. Kepfield–a lawyer’s eye-view of the risks and rewards of private space ventures–is a strong opener. Along the way we encounter an assassin-cellist; a lost-in-time Space Command Commander who learns the fine art of Southern Barbecue; and dumb bunnies who get an unexpected evolutionary assist. Julie C. Frost contributed “Bear Essentials,” continuing the saga of Captain Fisk, his grown daughter, their small crew, and their marginally profitable freighter…and an intelligent bear destined for godhood and sacrifice. (It was Frost’s “Illegal Beagles” that prompted me to buy the anthology.)

Editor Bascomb James provides insightful and articulate introductions to the stories, celebrating their place in the best traditions of SF. And when I put the book down, I was struck by how all of them captured the one thing that seems in such short supply today: Hope. 

The only problem I had with Far Orbit is that they were all short stories. In general, I agree with CS Lewis’s sentiments: “You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.” But I’ll make an exception for a short story collection of this caliber.

Leave a Reply