New Dreams for Old by Mike Resnick

(2006-09-10)

 

Published by Pyr

June 2006

ISBN 1-59102-441-2

419 Pages

Author Web site: http://www.fortunecity.com/tattooine/farmer/2/

 

In Mike Resnick’s newest collection, New Dreams for Old, the award winning author presents stories that touch upon themes at the heart of humanity.  Love.  Dreams.  Heartbreak. Purpose.  With many of the stories told in the first person narrative, these themes and feelings are heightened with a sense of intimacy.  The introduction Resnick provides to each story further strengthens this personal connection, as he often cites the personal inspiration to each story.

 

In My Travels with My Cats, a lonely ageing man rediscovers a story read during his youth. As he continually re-reads the story, his almost unhealthy obsession turns into life-changing event. Here, Resnick demonstrates the sheer power of story.

 

In another touching story, Down Memory Lane, Resnick postulates a future where disease and death are no longer the barriers to extending human life.  What is often considered a goal of science, and the theme of many a science fiction story, is turned upside down as Resnick ponders the benefits of such a life.

 

In addition to these wonderful stories, Resnick returns to the private investigator of his supernatural detective stories, John Justin Mallory.  With two stories featuring Mallory in the collection, I was left wanting more.  In Mallory’s world, Manhattan is run by a demon and Mallory runs a private detective agency.  Both of these stories (Chinese Sandman and The Amorous Broom) feature the twists and turns of a great hard-boiled mystery, with both humor and fantastical elements.  These three elements play off extremely well and one hopes Resnick brings Mallory out for more stories.

 

In two other mystery hybrids, the setting is the far reaches of the galaxy.  Taken from the Science Fiction Book Club exclusive anthology Down These Dark Spaceways, Guardian Angel unfolds as investigator is hired by both parents to track down the missing son.  However, the parents are not married and the mother doesn’t realize the father also hired the PI.  Jake, the protagonist, walks a fine line balancing both of his clients as he searches the galaxy for the young man in an interstellar circus.

 

The closing story, Keepsake, is one of the more powerful of the bunch, and also first appeared in and SFBC-exclusive anthology, Between Worlds.  The story has a somewhat Faustian hook, as people are willing to exchange anything with a mysterious group of aliens known as the Star Gypsies in order to alleviate their society’s, or personal, misfortune.  As the story progresses, the protagonist becomes further angered and frustrated with the Star Gypsies.  While the ending isn’t a complete resolution, it rings very true.

 

Fans of Resnick’s Africa/Kirinyaga stories will be pleased with the two stories touching upon those themes and worlds. For I Have Touched the Sky reads like a myth, yet has all the resonance of a story about the human spirit. 

 

As I mentioned earlier, Resnick prefaces each story with an aside about the inspiration and his feelings about the story.  He also mentions the award (Hugo, Nebula, etc) the story either received or for which it was nominated.  One might see these intros a bit self-serving, but on the other the stories are fantastic, so why shouldn’t a writer be proud of his accomplishments? 

 

New Dreams for Old, with its gorgeous Stephan Martiniere cover, is terrific collection displaying Mike Resnick’s wonderful storytelling abilities across the range of speculative fiction.  What makes these stories so great is, despite their far out and fantastical settings, how intimately they touch upon the human condition, both now and in the future, even through the eyes of robots and elephants.

 

© 2006 Rob H. Bedford

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