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The Best of Marion Zimmer Bradley by Marion…

The Best of Marion Zimmer Bradley (1985)

by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Other authors: Martin Harry Greenberg (Editor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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This consists of 16 stories by Marion Zimmer Bradley published from 1954 to 1980. I wish there had been some introduction to the stories, but there's nothing but the brief description in the back cover that tells us her "work is difficult to categorize" being a blend of fantasy and science fiction, and usually dealing with social and gender issues. I will say that one thing that strikes me about these stories is that the more "soft science" focus means her stories don't date as badly as most science fiction stories do after a decade or so.

I recently read anthologies of Isaac Asimov's and Vernor Vinge's short stories--and this suffers by comparison. With Asimov I remembered many of the stories decades after I first read them--some when I was a child--just from the title. Some of those stories are rightly thought of as the best in the genre, once read they're unforgettable. And though Asimov tends to be more cerebral, more an author of ideas over character, sometimes he can pack an emotional wallop. Vernor is a lesser talent in comparison--perhaps a bit more stylistically sophisticated than Asimov--but he has a few stories that are standouts too--that I can remember just from the title several years later. I can think of other great science fiction masters of the short story: Arthur C. Clarke, C.L. Moore, Ray Bradbury.

Marion Zimmer Bradley doesn't belong in that company. I say that as a fan of hers, but I think she was best in the more expansive novel form, with more room for world-building and characterization--and what I love are her Darkover novels, not Mists of Avalon which she's famous for. And those, despite a fantasy feel, are science fiction. In fact, the stories I remembered best in this volume are her two Darkover stories, "To Keep the Oath" and "Blood Will Tell" and I suspect both are so memorable because I can put them in the context of the Darkover series, not because they stand alone. Both of those stories can be found in other places too. As can her Lythande story, "The Secret of the Blue Star," which can be found in Thieves' World or the anthology Lythande. There is, of all things, a Middle Earth Tolkien pastiche here, "The Jewel of Arwen." The copyright on Tolkien surely had not expired when that work was published, so its presence was odd. (I've read it was dropped from later editions of this book.)

Some of the stories not associated with any series were interesting certainly. It struck me reading "The Climbing Wave" and "The Day of the Butterflies" that in her way MZB is as anti-science and technology as C.S. Lewis. But then arguably so is the progenitor of the entire genre, Frankenstein--a cautionary tale of science. "Centaurus Changeling" reminded me of her Darkover tales in its clash between an advanced Terran empire and a seemingly less sophisticated "lost colony" as well as its use of psychic abilities and non-traditional relationships. And "Treason of the Blood" actually has an original approach to the vampire legend, and I didn't think at this point that was possible--though, characteristically, that too has a science-fiction gloss on it.

All in all, the book was an enjoyable, at times thought-provoking collection. Not impressive enough to put MZB among the science-fiction greats in short fiction, but I like these stories enough that it's keeping a place among my precious bookshelf space. ( )
  LisaMaria_C | Nov 11, 2012 |
  rustyoldboat | May 28, 2011 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Marion Zimmer Bradleyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Greenberg, Martin HarryEditorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bradbury, StephenCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hescox, RichardCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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There are 2 different works with the title The Best of Marion Zimmer Bradley with different contents.
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1 • Centaurus Changeling • (1954)
50 • The Climbing Wave • (1955)
121 • Exiles of Tomorrow • (1955)
128 • Death Between the Stars • (1956)
146 • Bird of Prey • (1957)
181 • The Wind People • (1959)
199 • The Wild One • (1960)
215 • Treason of the Blood • (1962)
231 • The Jewel of Arwen • (1973)
241 • The Day of the Butterflies • (1976)
253 • Hero's Moon • (1976)
277 • The Engine • (1977)
283 • The Secret of the Blue Star • (1979)
303 • To Keep the Oath • (1979)
331 • Elbow Room • (1980)
349 • Blood Will Tell • (1980)
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