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The New Space Opera [Paperback]

Gardner Dozois , Jonathan Strahan
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Jun 2007
An anthology of epic interstellar adventures from dazzling stars in the SF universe: Kage Baker Stephen Baxter Gregory Benford Tony Daniel Greg Egan Peter F. Hamilton Gwyneth Jones James Patrick Kelly Nancy Kress Ken Macleod Paul J. McAuley Ian McDonald Robert Reed Alastair Reynolds Mary Rosenblum Robert Silverberg Dan Simmons Walter Jon Williams
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Eos (1 Jun 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060846755
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060846756
  • Product Dimensions: 22.8 x 16.8 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 849,320 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
This collections is meaty, varied, variously fun and clever.

There are so many good stories that listing highlights seems a bit futile, but for me these would be Ian McDonald's surreal high concept "Verthandi's Ring", Tony Daniel's semi-fantastical, far-future romance "The Valley of the Gardens", Alastair Reynold's "Minla's Flowers", a decades-spanning tragedy with a strangely Lilliputian feel, Robert Silverberg's addictive and perceptive "The Emperor and the Maula", and the excellently paced, caddish romp "Send Them Flowers" by Walter Jon Williams, whose the character who at first might be taken for the comic relief, Tonio, quickly steals the show.

"Muse of Fire" by Dan Simmons deserves special attention. It features an old-fashioned travelling Shakespearian troupe somehow surviving in an empire of human slaves devoid of all other culture and stripped of their homeworld, as they climb a hierarchy of alien powers to perform a series of the Bard's works with escalating importance to the future. It walks the line between ridiculous and sublime with absolute and expert poise, and serves beautifully as a climactic championing of the human spirit in a science fiction world, and a defence of great poetry in the broadest sense.

I liked the plot but ultimately found the mother in Nancy Kress's "Art of War" offputtingly one-dimensional. Stephen Baxter's "Remembrance" was good and will probably mean more to those who've read the Xeelee series (it's early in that timeline, apparently).

Obviously there has been science fiction in short story form for a very long time. However, I tend to think of the label "space opera" as applying to a longer format: novels, or multiply franchised TV series, for example. An opera is not a single musical piece, after all.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Overview of Modern Space Opera 15 Nov 2010
Format:Mass Market Paperback
"The New Space Opera", jointly edited by Asimov's Science Fiction magazine editor Gardner Dozois and Australian science fiction editor Jonathan Strahan, is a vivid reminder that the classic science fiction subgenre of space opera, perhaps best known to millions via "Star Trek" and "Star Wars", remains alive and well. In this assembled volume are fast-paced, often enthralling, tales from long-time masters like Robert Silverberg, Gregory Benford, Walter Jon Williams and Dan Simmons, joined by the next generation of great science fiction writers like Robert Reed, Paul J. McAuley, and Alastair Reynolds. Many of these stories could count as superb examples of science fiction literature, with exquisitely written prose, crisp dialogue and fine depictions of characters and their settings. One of the most captivating is Reynolds's "Minla's Flowers", an especially haunting tale about first contact which disastrous consequences for both the visiting alien and the inhabitants of the world he's crash-landed. Another memorable one is Gregory Benford's near future interplanetary space opera tale, "The Worm Turns". All told there are eighteen tales demonstrating that this is not the space opera of yesteryear, but instead, one replete with consistently elegant prose and to wonder and to dream about the human condition set against the vast canvas of space itself, with far more subtlety than seen in space opera's "Golden Age" in the first half of the 20th Century; without question both Dozois and Strahan offer a most persuasive case that the science fiction subgenre of space opera is enjoying its true "Golden Age" now.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
This collection of short stories has been sitting half-read next to my sofa for months, but I've finally finished it. That it sat around for so long without being finished made me think that I'd write a fairly critical review, and I do indeed have some criticisms. However, the last few stories were excellent and so the collection as a whole gets 4 stars.

There's no real stinkers in this volume at all. However, quite a few, especially earlier in the book, left me frustrated - frustrated that there wasn't more, frustrated at the wonderful ideas not fully developed. Wanting more is a clear sign of good writing, but when we're given so little in a short story that I am frustrated instead of just wanting to buy the author's other books, that takes away from the enjoyment, and when I review books, enjoyment is the most important aspect.

But the next most important aspect in my reviews is "literary merit". Something supremely enjoyable will get high marks from me even if of dubious quality, but something of high quality but not particularly enjoyable will only rarely get my praise. But excellent writing will sway me even if I don't enjoy reading it. Combine excellent writing with excellent entertainment and I will praise it to the stars. The last few stories in this book were of such high quality as well as being enjoyable that what I thought would be just another middle-ranking book gets within sniffing distance of the top rank. They combine fine enjoyable story telling with bold ideas, and excellent writing and structure.

The standout story is The Emperor and the Maula by the ancient Robert Silverberg, which steals its framing device from the Thousand Nights and a Night to tell a fine story in bite-size chunks perfect for reading on the bus. Also worth mentioning are Nancy Kress's Art of War and Dan Simmons's Muse of Fire which brilliantly combines space opera with Gnosticism and Shakespeare.
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Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  18 reviews
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More for fans than for newcomers 4 Jan 2008
By Michael Lichter - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
While this anthology may appear to be aimed at newcomers to the genre (or subgenre), I doubt that newcomers will get as much out of it as fans who have already read a good deal of the material referred to here as "the new space opera." Why? Many of the stories take place in universes already visited by the authors. The degree of integration with earlier work varies; Gwyneth Jones' so-so story "Saving Tiaamat," takes place in the same universe as her WHITE QUEEN novel and its sequels, but does not involve the "Aleutians" or any earlier characters. Peter F. Hamilton's barely-readable "Blessed by an Angel" takes place in the same universe as PANDORA'S STAR and requires some knowledge of that universe but doesn't seem to add much. (It does, however, strengthen my opinion that Hamilton is a dreadful writer.) In contrast, Robert Reed's adventure-packed "Hatch" takes place on the surface of the "Great Ship" introduced in his novel MARROW (which I haven't read) and appears to shed new light on what goes on inside the ship.

Although most of the stories stand on their own--I think Hamilton's is the only exception--I think newcomers would still get a better introduction to today's space opera by starting with a novel or two, like Reynolds' REVELATION SPACE (on the heavier side), Stross' SINGULARITY SKY, or Scalzi's OLD MAN'S WAR (on the lighter side). (Note that Stross and Scalzi do not have stories in this volume.)

The book has a number of highlights. Walter Jon Williams' yarn "Send Them Flowers," features a couple of not-quite-on-the-level pals who flit around in a space yacht. Williams' irresponsible and irresistible (to women) character Tonio is a humorous wonder. Tony Daniel's "The Valley of the Gardens" is a weird, charming, and melancholy tale about a man and a woman who sacrifice themselves to save the world. Dan Simmons' "Muse of Fire" may overstate the cosmic importance of Shakespeare, but it is nonetheless surprising and engaging. While the book also has low points, none of the stories, aside from Hamilton's contribution, are truly bad. Baker's "Maelstrom" is silly and patronizing to its characters, Rosenblum's "Splinters of Glass," is awkwardly written (but clearly superior to Hamilton in execution if not imagination), and McDonald's "Verthandi's Ring," is artsy but empty.

In sum, this collection is not going to blow anybody away, but it's a worthwhile addition to the library of any fan of contemporary space opera.
22 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for all science fiction fans 15 July 2007
By Paul Lappen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Space opera has been defined as "colorful action-adventure stories of interplanetary or interstellar conflict." These new, never before published stories are tales of aliens and alien cultures, not just interstellar war stories.

A pair of human researchers change their species to investigate a scientific anomaly on another planet. A group of traveling Shakespearean actors give the performances of their lives for the aliens who have conquered and enslaved Earth. A human society which has barely conquered the airplane has less than 100 years to live; their sun is in the path of a destructive stellar phenomena. An experienced interstellar traveler urges/pushes them into a crash course in spaceflight. He has to deal with what the society has become.

An alien ship the size of Jupiter has been turned into the ultimate cruise ship, on an eons-long trip around the galaxy. After a hijack attempt goes wrong, a number of passengers are trapped outside the ship and are forced to create their own society on the ship's hull. A very rich man on Mars decides to bring Art and Culture to the miners who live there. He spares no expense to build a theatre with imported walnut paneling, and advertises on Earth, for actors who are ready to emigrate to Mars.

I really enjoyed these stories. Each of the authors in this collection very much knows what they are doing. This is a formidable group of tales, and is essential reading for all science fiction fans.
19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The best are the stories from Silverberg and Reynolds 14 Sep 2007
By trainreader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
By reading the short stories and novellas in this volume, one quickly realizes that the term "space opera" is used rather broadly. Here's my synopsis of the stories (and some general observations along the way):

"Saving Tiamaat," "Verthandi's Ring" & "Hatch": I don't really know, because I found them so convoluted that I didn't finish them. Some of the authors of these stories introduce the reader to a slew of aliens, alien civilizations, and future technologies in a few pages, where maybe a 50 page introduction to a 300 or so page book would be adequate.

"Winning Peace": Not bad, but could have used a longer treatment. A common theme in this volume seems to be the situation where one group of humans (or aliens) subjugate another group of humans, who find some means of revenge in the end.

"Glory": There are so many things going on in this story, that I'm not sure why the author didn't write a full-fledged novel. I would even read it.

"Maelstrom": This is one of the more memorable stories because it's about a group of rag-tag actors on a recently colonized Mars who put on a play which loosely reflects the lives of colonists. It's surprisingly humorous, but categorizing it as a "space opera" is really a stretch.

"Blessed by an Angel": If I hadn't have read Peter Hamilton's incredible "Pandora's Star" (and the much more mediocre sequal "Judas Unchained"), I would have been completely lost. That's another thing that you find in the volume -- some of the backgrounds of these short stories were already covered in full-blown novels. This particular story is ok, but I would think incomprehensible to one who didn't read "Pandora's Star."

"Who's Afraid of Wolf 359"?: I'm sure I read it, but nothing sticks with me.

"The Valley of the Gardens": A touching Romeo and Juliet type love story set on an alien world. This also cries out for a longer treatment.

"Dividing the Sustain": Utterly bizarre. Don't know what quite to think about it. Another thought I have about alot of these stories is that the authors tend to forget that if real/actual/virtual time is substantially longer than one's perceived time on a space-ship, the technology will change completely once the voyage is finished (think about our technology 20 years ago).

"Minla's Flowers": A superb novella about a space traveller who attempts to advance a civilization before its time to avert disaster. I really liked this one and am interested in reading more by the author (Alastair Reynolds).

"Splinters of Glass": Most of it describes a chase scene on flying skateboards through icy pathways on Europa (and a love story to boot). OK, as far as it goes.

"Rememberance": An interesting tale about an alien race that nearly destroys humanity and makes everyone (save one person) forget about it. Humanity now has the power to destroy them. Also could have been better as a full fledged novel, or a decent Star Trek episode.

"The Emperor and the Maula": Maybe because I'm such a huge Robert Silverberg fan, this was my favorite entry. It tells the story of a far future human race, that had finally found peace and cooperation, only to be subjugated by the Ansaar, who conquer the Earth through a terrifying shock and awe campaign, and then basically treat humans like an insignificant nuisance (part of the "Maula" -- creatures below contempt). A brave young woman named Laylah visits the Ansaar's home planet knowing it means her certain execution. But she manages to get in the presence of the Emperor who doesn't quite know what to make of her. Silverberg's traditional skills, such as describing exotic alien planets, and the arrogance of a supreme leader, shine through here. "The Emperor and the Maula" could probably work just as well as a fable without a scifi/space opera setting. In fact, it reminded me somewhat of the story of Purim, (Laylah reminded me an awful lot of Esther).

"The Worm Turns": Strange and surrealistic. Like some of the other stories, one needs to probably understand something about wormholes in order to appreciate it, which I really don't.

"Send them Flowers": Dull and one of the few entries I thought was too long.

"Art of War": An exo-art historian, who has a hostile relationship with his mother (a four star general in the military), tries to find a pattern in how an enemy alien race arranged art in caves which they had stolen from humans. Huh?

"Muse of Fire": I loved "Hyperion," but I often find Dan Simmon's writing to be extremely dense. Here, he shows off his obviously prodigious knowledge of Shakespeare. The story wasn't bad, but he really shouldn't have tried to cram all this stuff (the performance of Shakespearean plays in front of a serious of increasingly God-like aliens) into 61 pages.

Read "The New Space Opera," if you like short science fiction stories. It may also lead you to an author or two in whom you might become interested.
19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps just not a sub genre for me 2 Sep 2007
By Mitchell A. Kaplan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"New" space opera. I have to say I that I kind of liked the old space opera. I found these stories to be somewhat depressing and most seemed unresolved by the end of the story. I'm glad I read it however.

I think my biggest complaint is that the ends of the stories weren't generally satisfying to me. I guess the stories must have been sufficiently good in that I was anxious to see how they would turn out. However that is where I found myself disappointed.

I would recommend this collection, but I wouldn't put it at the top of my list.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointingly Low Amount of Good Stories 18 July 2009
By Randy Stafford - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
What is "space opera"? The introduction succinctly and accurately calls it romantic adventure science fiction told on a grand scale. It then traces the history of the sub-genre from its stirrings in the 1890s to its full-fledged birth in the 1920s to its nadir in the 1960s and 1970s, when the New Wave made it unfashionable, to its rebirth, while American authors were developing cyberpunk, at the hands of the British in the 1980s and 1990s.

For that grand scale, I'd specify vast scales of time and space and weaponry. The fate of species - their lives or at least their sanity and cultural viability - should be at stake and not some mere individual's happiness or survival. Some of the stories in this collection are good but not space opera. Some are both. But there aren't enough good stories of any type to give this collection a higher rating.

The following stories fall in the unsuccessful and not even space opera category. The setup for Gwyneth Jones "Saving Timaat", the narrator helping in the negotiations between representatives of two warring groups, the one cannibalistic predators on the other, is good but the emotional connection of the narrator to the cannibal chief and her motivations are too oblique. James Patrick Kelly's "Dividing the Sustain" is a would-be comedy of manners about a courier aboard a ship of communist colonists and the steps he takes to get close to the captain's estranged wife, subject of an unaccountable infatuation, and to avoid getting "stale", a consequence of longevity treatments. Not at all interesting. Nancy Kress has put out some wonderful work, particularly when she engages in speculating about the consequences of biotech. However, her "Art of War" seems just a writerly exercise in developing the title phrase into a story and playing around with the cliché of stern military father (here a stern military mom) and a disappointing son. The story's war between alien Teli and humans and the place each species' art plays in the struggle just didn't have the grand feel of space opera.

In the good but not space opera category are several works. Paul J. McAuley's "Winning Peace" has the flavor if not the plot of Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad and the Ugly or a film noir. Its protagonist, sold into slavery after being taken prisoner in humanity's civil war, is offered freedom in exchange for aiding in the quest for an alien artifact. He, however, has other plans - as do all the human and alien principals in this story. Mary's Rosenblum's "Splinters of Glass" is a chase story initiated when the protagonist's old girlfriend, from whom he's been hiding, shows up with assassins in tow. He and the woman head out into the fissures of an ice world. Walter Jon Williams' "Sends Them Flowers" has an interesting background - alternate universes differentiated not by divergences from some historical point but slightly different physical laws - and a couple of interesting characters tramping about in their inherited spaceship. However, the problems of the duo, most of them caused by the womanizing of the ex-con, don't have the grandiosity required by space opera.

In the not very engaging but still space opera category are several stories. Kage Baker's "Maelstrom" gets in here solely because its Martian setting, with a group of misfits trying, in an unsuccessfully humorous plot, to stage Edgar Poe's "Descent into the Maelstrom" evokes the spirit of the American West, one of the spiritual ancestors of the space opera. Gregory Benford's "The Worm Turns", sequel to his "A Worm in the Well", has lots of hard science with a cometary prospector and her artificial intelligence heading through a wormhole. But I found the story, even with its encounters with aliens on the other side of the wormhole - they're not at all happy about seeing humans, the resulting conversations between the aliens and AI, and the banter between machine and prospector uninvolving. Robert Reed's "Hatch" has a promising set up: survivors of the Polypond War live on the outside of the Great Ship (setting for several Reed stories) and scavenge materials castoff by the cloud-like biomech Polypond. However, the ending is too obscure and wrecks an interesting story. Tony Daniel's "The Valley of the Gardens" has a key ingredient of space opera: a vast war between aliens from another universe and humans, a war humans are loosing, And the plot, alternating between the unexpected human victory in that war and its consequences on a young man's world, was intriguing. The payoff, though, seems another writerly exercise in contrived symmetry between the two halves of the story, and the relation between a soldier and his weapon a badly literalized metaphor.

Another story marred by a too neat plot contrivance is Ian McDonald's "Verthandi's Ring". However, it's not marred enough to keep it out of the good and space opera category. Like some of the best stories in this collection, it brings the red in tooth and claw Darwinian struggle for existence into the ecosystem of the whole universe. When two species with superscience compete, there can be no peaceful co-existence because each wants and needs all the material and energy resources of the universe. Here it is not a simple version of humanity struggling with the aliens but the many clades man has evolved into. Alien mathematical archaeology and how advanced cultures find the will to survive - as well as an opening of diamond hard science fiction describing an unusual alien probe - are in Greg Egan's excellent "Glory". Peter F. Hamilton's "Blessed by an Angel" is set in the universe of his Commonwealth. It shows that civil wars may be fought over how to control humanity's impulse to go into the box and embrace a life of lotus-eating in virtual reality. Here the conflict is not overt, doesn't involve fleets of ships, is fought with subversion and espionage but the stakes are still for the race's future. Ken Macleod is a socialist whose fiction is loved by libertarians. Here he brings his wry, cynical take on the futility of all political systems and combines it with evolutionary design strategy to show how the unfortunate inhabitants of Wolf 359 are part of an experiment to solve some old political problems. The title asks "Who's Afraid of Wolf 359?" It turns out that a lot of people should be. Alastair Reynold's "Minla's Flowers", part of his Husker sequence and direct prequel to "Merlin's Gun", has Merlin stumbling across a human world threatened with extinction, in 70 years, by a breakdown of the alien Waynet transportation network. In and out of stasis as he tries to help them develop the tech to migrate offworld, he watches a little girl develop into an unpleasant, Stalinesque leader. Stephen Baxter was one of the British revivers of space opera. His Xeelee story "Remembrance" features man's first encounter with alien invaders and the resulting bitter conflict, for which Baxter pulls out three nifty bits of diverse and credible science, teaches the hard lesson that peaceful co-existence between man and alien is a doomed and foolish notion. The redoubtable Robert Silverberg has a human woman from the backwater of an alien empire confront the Emperor and, reminiscent of Scherezade in the Arabian Nights, use her wiles to effect her purposes. "The Emperor and the Maula" doesn't really have the science and technology of new space opera, but it's definitely still space opera. One of the longest stories in the book, it's enthralling all the time. Also long and enthralling is Dan Simmon's "Muse of Fire". In a world of god-like aliens where humans are merely slaves, a troupe of Shakespearean actors is compelled to put on performances for their masters with the fate of humanity hanging in the balance. It manages to touch on the effects of art in a harsh world without engaging in easy pieties about art's power and benefits.
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