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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some classic stories + +, 29 May 2001
This review is from: Science Fiction 101: Where to Start Reading and Writing Science Fiction (Paperback)
The covers of the book promised that the book was three books in one. And it is! The included stories are genuine classics, and Robert Silverberg's commentaries afterward definitely added to my enjoyment of them. It is also interesting to read the autobiographical parts of the book, and his noting the techniques which are being used in each story, and how he approached the struggles of teaching himself how to write. Despite being a re-release of a book originally published a few decades ago, it still stands up well today, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to a) read some fine stories like 'Scanners die in vain', 'Monsters', 'No Woman Born' + b) Wants to know a little about the processes/history involved in writing the stories and c) See how Robert Silverberg became a big cheese of science fiction. Recommended!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent guide to the writing process, 27 Jun 2010
By 
G. Gibson "gary gibson" (scotland, united kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This anthology of Silverberg's favourite science fiction from a period spanning roughly 1953 to 1966 includes a great number of stories regarded by many as genre classics. Some I love, some I love perhaps not so much, but what makes it stand out far ahead from the pack and makes it an absolutely vital addition to the library of anyone seriously thinking about becoming a writer is Silverberg's extensive commentary; every story is accompanied by an essay in which he picks the story apart in order to figure out not only why it ticks, but what it is about the story that makes it so highly-regarded. This makes it invaluable to anyone wanting to write long or short-form science fiction (as a matter of fact, one of the things that decided me to buy it was a review by Joe Haldeman on the book's Amazon.com page which said pretty much the same thing). The lengthy opening autobiographical essay, in which Silverberg recounts the ways in which he obsessively analyzed fiction as a teenager in his drive to become a professional author, is worth the price of the book alone.

There's some great stories in there - Day Million, The Light of Other Days, PK Dick's Colony - and one or two others I can't help but find terribly creaky and old-fashioned, such as Cordwainer Smith's Scanners Live in Vain. Even so, when treated purely as an anthology of sf stories and momentarily disregarding the essays on writing, what you have here is also an excellent overview of some of the most influential science fiction published in the middle part of the 20th Century. Highly recommended, particularly if you want to learn at the feet of one of the grand old men of the genre.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A real curiosity, 3 Oct 2012
By 
Runmentionable "Why Be A Raisin When You Can ... (Exiled Mackem) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Science Fiction 101: Where to Start Reading and Writing Science Fiction (Paperback)
In terms of my own enjoyment, this book would get a solid five stars without any hesitation, but I've opted for a four-star review because it's an odd beast which some (like me) will love and others (like some Amazon.com reviewers) will really dislike.

The book starts with a long-ish autobiographical essay from Robert Silverberg (ignore Amazon's co-credit to Greg Bear as author - all he contributes is a foreword), describing his apprentice years as a writer, and how he came to learn his (substantial) craft. It then moves on to include 13 short stories which Silverberg found particularly important in the development of his own writing, and his annotations on how the stories' authors achieve their effects through their own skills. So it's a strange mix of memoir, anthology, critical review and how-to guide.

If you approach it purely as an anthology, you'll probably find it short on volume, if not on quality. As a how-to guide, it's probably too anecdotal for those who are really looking for serious instruction, though the critical observations are shrewd and really enhance appreciation of the stories. As for the memoir, I found it fascinating, and liked its wry tone, but then I'm a big admirer of Silverberg and I also like hearing about how people with great skills acquired them, and how they learned from others. I can however see how some readers (like, again, some Amazon.com reviewers) might find it offputting, particularly if they don't pick up on Silverberg's understated irony and misread it as an ego trip.

I like the mix. Readers looking for something more straightforward may be better off looking elsewhere. That said, if you just buy it for the stories, and ignore all the other stuff, it's one hell of an anthology. All the writers are from the top-rank and many of the stories are established classics. This is what you get:

Damon Knight - Four In One
Alfred Bester - Fondly Farenheit
C.L. Moore - No Woman Born
Henry Kuttner - Home Is The Hunter
Robert Sheckley - The Monsters
James Blish - Common Time
Cordwainer Smith - Scanners Live In Vain
Brian W. Aldiss - Hothouse
Jack Vance - The New Prime
Philip K. Dick - Colony
C. M. Kornbluth - The Little Black Bag
Bob Shaw - Light Of Other Days
Frederik Pohl - Day Million

Not a dud among them. So if you do just buy it for the stories, you have a very fine read ahead of you. But if you like the sound of the other stuff, or even if you don't but you have an open mind, the whole thing is even more rich and rewarding.
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Science Fiction 101: Where to Start Reading and Writing Science Fiction
Science Fiction 101: Where to Start Reading and Writing Science Fiction by Robert Silverberg (Paperback - 17 April 2001)
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