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Free Space by Edward E. Kramer

Free Space (edition 1998)

by Edward E. Kramer (Editor)

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321347,362 (2.3)1
Title:Free Space
Authors:Edward E. Kramer
Info:Tor Books (1998), Edition: 1st, Paperback, 352 pages
Collections:Reviewed, Read but unowned
Tags:fiction, anthology, short stories, libertarian, Science Fiction

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Free Space by Edward E. Kramer (Editor)



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On the whole I found this anthology disappointing, and it won't be keeping its place on my bookshelves. The book is comprised of 20 short works of libertarian science fiction--almost all original to the book, set in a shared universe and organized historically from an alternate history incident in our recent past to centuries into the future. I read another anthology of libertarian science fiction recently, Give Me Liberty, and by and large that was stronger, because its editor could pick and choose stories written by various authors over decades fitting its theme, while this, as with many other theme anthologies of new stories was rather hit or miss--and I felt more often miss. I'd say a good half of the stories I concluded once I finished weren't worth reading or I skipped to the next midway, because they were too heavy-handed and didactic or confusing, even incoherent or just plain boring. Almost another third of the stories were okay--just okay. Nothing that really stood out as memorable at all. Finally, there were five stories that I did like:

1) "Madam Butterfly" by James P. Hogan - dealing with the "butterfly effect" I thought this was one of the very few stories worth reading for its own sake with strong storytelling, not simply a libertarian polemic.

2) "Early Bird" by Gregory Benford - this one stood out as the one work of old fashioned hard science fiction dealing with sophisticated scientific concepts and featuring one of the rare strong and believable female characters in the book. (There was only one female author in the anthology. As the editor condescendingly put it, McElroy was only "babe" he was able "to talk between the covers." She contributed a rather lackluster poem rather than a story.)

3) "Tyranny" by Poul Anderson - Anderson has written a lot of science fiction I have loved. He was one of only a handful of standouts in another theme anthology of original stories I read recently, Dangerous Visions. His story there, "Eutopia" was so much better written, with a strong literary style, while "Tyranny" suffered from infodump and seemed clunky in comparison. But I did appreciate that this story dealt with the price you pay for freedom--that there is no such thing as utopia. The most thought-provoking story in the book.

4) "The Hand You're Dealt" by Robert J. Sawyer - I enjoyed this as a well-written noirish hard-boiled science fiction mystery.

5) "The Performance of a Life-Time" by Arthur Byron Cover - Memorable like "Tyranny" for examining one possible weakness of a free society and with a clever twist.

That's not enough though. I liked the above stories--only a quarter of the whole, but I didn't love them. I have loved stories by authors included in the book--particularly stories and novels by Poul Anderson, Ray Bradbury (yes, that one, of Fahrenheit 451 fame), James P. Hogan and Robert Anton Wilson. Bradbury and Wilson provided undistinguished poems, and though Anderson and Hogan contributed two of the best stories in the anthology, I don't think either of those stories are examples of the best they're capable of. Recommended to fans of libertarian science fiction only--and by no means do I think even they would find this book a standout in the subgenre. ( )
  LisaMaria_C | Apr 10, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kramer, Edward E.Editorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Linaweaver, BradEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312867204, Paperback)

This is a libertarianist anthology of (mostly) original stories that, depending on your tastes, can be too narrowly focused or wonderfully concentrated. The "Free Space" in the title is just that: a loose federation of space habitats that has no central government. Free enterprise rules, and the editors let 20 authors ranging from William F. Buckley Jr. to William F. Wu have their way with it. The result is mixed, but on the whole successful, and it definitely makes for interesting reading. Several of the writers are winners of the Libertarian Futurist Society's Prometheus Award.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:53 -0400)

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