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The Ascent of Wonder: the Evolution of Hard Sf Paperback – Sep 1997

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Product details

  • Paperback: 990 pages
  • Publisher: Saint Martin's Press; 1st Orb Ed edition (Sept. 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312855095
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312855093
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 5.7 x 27.3 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,394,883 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 12 reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
The Definitive Hard Science Fiction Collection 20 Feb. 2007
By Terry Sunday - Published on
Format: Paperback
If you're a fan of hard science fiction, you need to own "The Ascent of Wonder: The Evolution of Hard SF." Period. Even if you have, as I do, a large collection of hardcover and paperback science fiction books that collectively contain many of the stories reprinted in this volume, you still need it.

As you might expect, many of the stories are from the "Golden Age" of the 1940's and `50's: you'll find classics such as Hal Clement's "Proof" (1942), James Blish's "Surface Tension" (1952) and Tom Godwin's haunting "The Cold Equations" (1954). Representing later years are such riveting tales as Theodore L. Thomas' "The Weather Man" (1962), Bob Shaw's "Light of Other Days" (1966) and Donald Kingsbury's "To Bring In the Steel" (1978). The 67 stories in "The Ascent of Wonder" make up a fantastic smorgasbord of the best hard science fiction of all time. But wait, there's more...there are three essays, totaling about 30 pages, on hard science fiction, written by editors David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Kramer and noted author Gregory Benford. Each story also contains a relatively short (half a page or so) but exceptionally insightful introduction. These alone make "The Ascent of Wonder" worth having.

With 990 pages of small, dense type, this volume is big and heavy. But even if you have to put an extra brace on your bookshelf to hold the weight, you should buy it. Quite simply, there is no better compilation of the imaginative, speculative, science-based stories that form the genre's "visionary core."
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Great authors, so-so editors 9 Jun. 2000
By D. Greenebaum - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book presents a massive collection of excellent "hard" science fiction stories. (The precise definition of "hard" s-f is left as an exercise to the alert reader.) While the stories are unimpeachable, the introductions and section headings written by the editors range from merely dull to painful. Buy the book, love the book, read the stories, skip the editorial matter.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
From HG Wells to David Brin, such scope! 16 Aug. 1997
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This weighty tome, is absolutely packed with some of the definitive stories of hard science fiction. The introductions to the stories illustrate the trends from the late 19th century to today.

Although there is an annoying misuse of the word 'affect' for 'effect', the story reviews are illuminating as to the great authors and their stories.

To have read this book is to have gained an overview of the evolution science fiction, to see where it all came from, to see the stories that started the subgenres, to know what IS the core of SF, hard SF.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Misleading Title 10 April 2010
By Timothy Denton - Published on
Format: Paperback
I found some great stories here that were new to me. It's a good collection of stories but there are a number of well-written stories here that are not Hard Science Fiction. The title is misleading. The editors seem to have no sympathy with the genre. In their introductions to the stories they seem to sneer at the whole genre from their elevated literary viewpoint. They are entitled to their opinions, but then, why did they do this collection? I suppose a collection entitled "A Gentle Introduction to the Better Sort of Science Fiction by Those Who Know Better Than You", or "Science Fiction that You Don't Need to be Embarrassed to Show your English-major Friends", wouldn't have much of a market. The snobbery and put-downs are really annoying.

So, as has been suggested, skip the editorial commentary, let the stories speak for themselves.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Recommended for sf aficionados only 5 April 2012
By Raymund Eich - Published on
Format: Paperback
Anthologies can be reviewed two ways: (1) as individual stories, or (2) as an editorial creation encompassing story selection, organization, and commentary.

As an editorial creation, this anthology is lacking. After three cogent introductions by the two co-editors and sf writer (and contributor to this volume) Gregory Benford, story selection and organization fall short. A reader might have expected a straightforward chronological approach, which would have had merit as a way of showing the ongoing genre conversation unique to sf, or at least a set of thematic groups (partial notes of which can be found in the afterword). Here, though, there's no apparent organization of the stories, with Nathaniel Hawthorne, Gene Wolfe, Hal Clement, and Raymond Z. Gallun pressed in cheek-by-jowl.

Story selection is hit-or-miss. Very early stories (Hawthorne, Poe, Wells, Kipling, Verne) belong for historical relevance, if nothing else, although their quality is generally higher than most of the stories by the Campbell/Astounding writers ("Proof" was Clement's first sale, which excuse isn't available for the Gallun, Latham, Campbell, Breuer, Garrett, and Jones). As far as hits go, some stories have clear literary and/or sfnal merit--LeGuin's "Nine Lives", Shaw's "Light of Other Days," Clarke's "The Star," Pohl's "Day Million," Benford's "Exposures." The list is not exhaustive, but does indicate the anthology's sweet spot is stories written during 1960-1980.

Another comment about the editorial direction: who is the intended reader? A hard sf purist would turn up his nose at the Ballards, McCaffery, Dick, Gibson, and LeGuin. A new sf reader curious about hard sf would be put off by the poor quality of the stories from the Campbell/Astounding writers mentioned above.

This book would best belong in the hands of someone with fluency in sf who wants to find older, quality stories he otherwise wouldn't. I've been reading sf for 30 years, and this anthology was my first exposure to Theodore Thomas' "Weather Man" (about as good a Campbell/Astounding story as I can imagine), Dean Ing's "Down and Out on Ellfive-Prime," Donald Kingsbury's "To Bring in the Steel" (featuring a "competent man" analog of Kim Kardashian!?), and Wells' "Land Ironclads," among others.
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