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The Very Best of Barry N. Malzberg by Barry…
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The Very Best of Barry N. Malzberg

by Barry N. Malzberg

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This was a rather frustrating collection to poor through. Malzberg is a highly skilled writer and his talents are firmly on display throughout this book, but this collection doesn't do him any favors.

As others have said, I'm pretty sure this book was produced via an OCR process and was not properly copy edited leading to numerous typos and formatting problems.

Also, Malzberg is not the easiest writer to read in large doses. While I do enjoy his rather curmudgeonly perspective a little goes a long way. I'm thrilled this book exists as Malzberg is one of those writers at risk of being forgotten and that would be an enormous injustice, but this collection is not going to help that effort. ( )
  jmgold | Oct 13, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Well, okay, I nearly managed to read the entire collection of stories and am now sure to be able to identify that a story is one of his works within a paragraph or two, for his style is unlike any other, and what he means to tell the reader (by subject matter, philosophy, and delivery) is also quite rare.

Surprised: the low number of science fiction stories in the collection.
Surprised: the abysmal quality of the typesetting throughout. The design and font choice didn't help reading either.
Surprised: the most interesting story was "The Men's Support Group" which was a contemporary story containing no science fiction or fantasy tropes.

Malzberg writes deep and is not intimidated by the dark and for that I kept reading--his angst-ridden mind is fascinating. At several moments when the writing was particularly abstract or mystical or experimental, I saw similarities in how I had embraced chaos and ostentation in my own writing back in my 20s, and thought, "...wow, maybe some of that old writing was publishable...". But be real, I am gobsmacked how most of these stories were accepted for print!?!!?

I recommend leaving this book aside and unopened until one has found to appreciate and enjoy at least a few of these titles: "A Galaxy Called Rome" (meta), "State of the Art" (fantasy), "Leviticus: In the Ark" (religious--and if you like this, try "Le Croix" or "The Men Inside"), "Police Actions" (good science fiction), "Quartermain" (religious), "The Men's Support Group" (very good contemporary), and "Out from Ganymede" (cautionary science fiction).

Good luck. ( )
1 vote psybre | Sep 19, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Not My Cup of Future Tea

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program.)

I’m a bit of a newcomer to science fiction – only in the last year have I discovered the likes of Joanna Russ, Suzette Haden Elgin, and Anne McCaffrey – and, having never heard of Barry N. Malzberg, I was unsure what to expect from this anthology.

The collection starts off on a strong note with “A Galaxy Called Rome,” a short story that’s ostensibly not a short story at all, but is rather presented as the author’s notes on how to write a short piece of science fiction. Accompanied only by a ship full of corpses (in cold storage for the day when their respective illnesses can be cured; until then, the bodies are stacked helpfully about the ship in order to absorb gamma rays), Lena is piloting the exploratory ship The Skipstone when it tumbles into a black galaxy. Here, time ceases to have meaning; Lena progresses through a thousand different lives, slowly building toward the day when she can find a way out of her predicament. Though not exactly an easy read, “A Galaxy Called Rome” is nonetheless an enjoyable piece of existential scifi, questioning what it means to be human in an infinite world.

After “A Galaxy Called Rome” – which is on the quirky side – the stories found in The Very Best of Barry N. Malzberg grow increasingly weird and esoteric. Wikipedia describes Malzberg’s style as “distinctive, with frequently long, elaborate though carefully constructed sentences and under-use of commas.” Further, Malzberg “uses metafiction techniques to subject the heroic conventions and literary limitations of space opera to biting satire.” Indeed, his beginnings as a playwright and prose fiction writer are evident in these stories. The result feels vaguely Orwellian, but much less readable.

Most of the stories appear to have been written in the ‘60s and ‘70s, Malzberg’s heyday. War, politics, and bureaucracy are common themes, though as someone who doesn’t really remember the Reagan presidency and wasn’t alive during the Vietnam War, much of Malzber’s satire is lost on me. Older readers – particularly those who were young adults in the ‘60s – might have a greater appreciation of Malzber’s style and viewpoint. Instead, I found myself skimming through the pages, finally giving up about halfway through. Usually I power through books I’m obligated to review, but this collection failed to hold my attention, if even for a cursory examination.

Additionally, horrendous punctuation and rampant typos make an already difficult book nearly impossible to read. Periods placed in the middle of sentences, incomplete pairs of quotation marks, commas that appear where they shouldn’t – this book is a mess. Whether it’s due to incompetent copyediting or poorly edited OCR scans (as another reviewer suggested), the result is the same: a text that’s increasingly difficult to plod through.

Incidentally, at first I thought that these mistakes were intentional – an extra layer of eccentricity provided by the author – that is, until I realized that they are universal throughout the text. Just to give you an idea of the author’s flair.

http://www.easyvegan.info/2013/11/04/the-very-best-of-barry-n-malzberg/ ( )
1 vote smiteme | Sep 17, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
5 stars for content; 3 for execution

On the surface, this book is an attractive artifact: well produced, on nice-feeling paper, with a well-designed cover. It has a satisfying heft to it. Plus, I like supporting small presses.

Inside the book, you get Barry N. Malzberg. I agree with one of the other reviewers, to a point -- Malzberg is one of those "science fiction" writers who are famous -- or notorious -- for doing things (particularly in the late 1960s and early 70s) that tick(ed) off a lot of genre people: things that make one go "Huh?" At least until one learns to read them.

Once one does learn to read this kind of thing, it becomes obvious that Malzberg is one of the better writers who has ever labored in the field. Ask Harlan Ellison (whether you like Harlan or not).

It is true -- Malzberg makes you work. But if you enjoy that kind of work, the rewards are ample: Malzberg is brilliant, dark, satirical, funny ... and sometimes mean. He's never quite doing what you think he's doing, nor what you may have come to believe a science fiction writer "should" do. I vividly recall reading his short novel Galaxies (an expanded version of the first story in this collection, "A Galaxy Called Rome") and emitting a strangled "Hunh? WTH was that?" when I finished. But I never forgot it. This is dense stuff, and some of it is meant to offend you. If you are offended, congratulations! you have learned something. What more can a book do?

The bad news, and it is very bad, is that this extremely attractive book appears to have been copyedited -- if it was copyedited at all -- by a very harried emu. If I was Malzberg I would be hopping mad. We're not talking an occasional typo. We're talking about typos, gaffes, weirdnesses on every page and, hell, every other paragraph. Utterly infuriating. Quotation marks fail to properly enclose speech, periods appear at random, words are misspelled, random weird characters appear. Very, very sloppy, Nonstop Press: copyediting is not optional!

UPDATE: looking at a lot of the goofs, they appear to be the result of incompletely-edited OCR scans. The mistakes are such that what is there _looks like_ what should be there, if you squint. And a lot of the extra periods could be due to blots on the original. Whatever the reason - it's a shame. It looks like Nonstop prints a lot of good stuff. I hope other volumes are produced with more care than this one.

I am now trying to find a copy of Malzberg's Beyond Apollo, which offended a whole bunch of folks in the early 70s. Wish me luck. ( )
  tungsten_peerts | Sep 3, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
It's easy to see from this collection why Malzberg is considered to be one of the major talents in the SF field, as reinforced by the forward to this book. An amazing collection filled with tales both elongated and brief, yet all leave you feeling as if you've just read something amazing, even if you didn't QUITE get it all. One hopes that this book will be the launchpad for the release of the rest of Malzberg's titles; there is definitely interest in seeing and reading more. ( )
  Ann_Louise | Sep 2, 2013 |
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Each of the 32 stories in this compilation offers Malzberg's trademark vision of a future that is equal parts cautionary tale and social commentary. In the fictional world depicted in one story, dreams turn into frightening trips through time to reveal an ultimate horror; in another the rules in a war game change with every flip of the manic military command. This volume includes pieces appearing for the first time.… (more)

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