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Worlds Enough and Time

Dan Simmons

Subterranean Press

US Deluxe Hardcover Edition

ISBN 1-931081-54-9

Publication Date: 04-2002

243 Pages; $40

Date Reviewed: 05-30-02

Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2002



Horror, Science Fiction, General Fiction

01-25-02,02-14-02,03-18-02, 04-15-02, 5-30-02, 10-08-02, 02-25-03, 04-30-03, 10-22-03, 10-29-03

More than a few years ago I was fortunate enough to be asked to review Dan Simmons' 'Lovedeath' for the San Francisco Chronicle. I really enjoyed the collection, though as a rule, I'm not enamored of the form -- I prefer novels. But collections of novellas will do the trick. So I was looking forward to 'Worlds Enough and Time' from publisher Subterranean Press, containing five novellas. What I didn't expect with this collection were Simmons chatty, entertaining, and occasionally damning introductions. He mentions Harlan Ellison's introductions in one of his, and it's a good comparison, but Simmons goes deeper. It's definitely worth the price of admission.

As you might expect, the five novellas cover a pretty wide range of styles. The opening story, 'Looking for Kelly Dahl' is Twilight Zone material, while the closing story 'The End of Gravity' is pretty much a real-world excursion in the tradition of Art Clarke. Both feature narrators who are rather bitter men, in keeping with the narrator of 'A Winter Haunting'. I had recently read 'On K2 With Kanakredes' in Al Sarrantonio's 'Red Shift', but re-read it and was glad I did. It's the tale of three men asked to climb K2 with a visiting alien. Simmons' prose is rather brusque, almost off-putting. I had frankly hesitated to re-read it. Upon doing so, however, I discovered the almost Japanese cleanliness of the construction of this story. It's very subtle, very interesting and rather moving -- in a brusque fashion.

Brusque sums up a lot of Simmons writing. He's almost maniacal about getting out of his own way and out of the reader's way to tell the story as simply as possible. It can take a little getting used to. That's why the introductions were key to the enjoyment of this volume. You can see that Simmons wears many masks, and when he wears a mask the fit is so snug that it's easy to think it's his real face. The reader rarely gets to see the real Dan Simmons, even in his introductions, though they give enough perspective so that the reader can ascertain that Simmons is simply a very busy, very talented chameleon.

Two of the novellas are hardcore science fiction. 'Orphans of the Helix' builds upon the Hyperion universe, though Simmons states that he had to be dragged kicking and screaming to do so. What really tickles the reader, however, is his anecdote about trying to sell a story to 'Star Trek Voyager'. It confirms the worst suspicions of readers, and if it doesn't make you laugh out loud, then you might need to take William Shatner's now classic line of advice.

'The Ninth of Av' is a passionate, extremely horrific story, though there's little on-page violence. It's also a tale from the 'What the hell is going on in this world?' school of science fiction that may try the reader's patience. Go with it, and prepare to have your face smacked. Terror doesn't get this powerful this side of Lovecraft, who in retrospect, might have hoped to craft something this rending.

Should you buy the hardcover edition of this collection? If you want the final story, if you want a beautifully produced book, the answer is clearly yes -- and you do want these things. It lays flat as you could ask. Read it with some fine gourmet food in a whisper-quiet restaurant after the lunch rush. You may not meet the elusive Mr. Simmons, but you'll certainly enjoy the tales he has to tell, even if he's talking about himself.