Top positive review
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This is one of the best short story collections ever.
on 15 July 1997
I'm usually hesitant about rating books as 9s or 10s on Amazon's scale. There are only perhaps a few dozen books of all time that I'd rate as 10s, and they tend to be written by the likes of Tolstoy and Cervantes. Even within a narrow category, where 10 means "best of this category," I'm hesitant about giving 10s. But, whether the caterory is "modern science fiction" or "20th century short story collections," Gene Wolfe's The Island of Dr. Death and Other Stories and Other Stories gets at least a 9 or 9.5 (and we can round that off to 10 since 9.5 isn't one of the choices).
Wolfe's collection is superb. It features all three of his Island -- Doctor -- Death stories ("The Island of Dr. Death and Other Stories," "The Death of Dr. Island," and the "Doctor of Death Island"), all three of which are superb. The collection also features such wonderful short works as "Seven American Nights," "Alien Stones," The Hero as Werewolf," and "The Eyeflash Miracles."
As you can probably guess from the title, the three Island -- Doctor -- Death stories form the heart of the collection. They are amazing not only in that all are great stories but that, despite the title similarities, each is different from the other. "The Island of Dr. Death," deals with a young boy who flees life by entering the fantasy world of the book he is reading -- a book that sounds as if it were The Island of Dr. Moreau as written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. "The Death of Dr. Island," possibly the best story in the book and one of the best SF stories ever written, deals with a three young sociopaths receiving therapy in a space station. Dr. Island is the "island" in the space station providing the therapy. The story examines human interaction, as well as what we do and don't value in life, on multiple levels. "The Doctor of Death Island" involves a prisoner who awakes from a cryogenic sleep only to find that humans are now virtually immortal and that a life sentence is still a life sentence. The ending is literally Dickensian.
There is not a bad story in this book. The collection as a whole ranks with the best Wolfe has produced, which means that it compares favorably not only to any SF you care to mention but to any modern fiction you care to mention.