Fred Saberhagen:A Spadeful of Spacetime

This is an anthology of stories, edited by Fred Saberhagen, which is dedicated to the theme of "time travel" without machines. Apparently Saberhagen is of the opinion that the time machine is too convenient a plot device, and wishes to see that stories can still be written that circumvent it.

The stories are not what one would expect. I, personally, was expecting a bunch of stories about people who could time travel without machines. After finishing the book, I had realized that that would just be replacing the plot device of the time machine with the plot non-device of characters who can just travel through time for no apparent reason.

By far the best story, IMHO, is R.A. Lafferty's "Bank And Shoal of Time". But then, Lafferty never fails to amuse me. His style is frenetic, bizarre, and nonlinear. (I'm told he can't keep it up for an entire novel, but all his short stories I've read are amazing.) This comes the closest to having people who can "just" travel by themselves, if they can just find some way to get past the barrier of their previous lifespan...but that's not really the point of the story.

Then we have the Zelazny story "Go Starless In The Night", about the corpsicle whose brain is woken many years in the future by benevolent aliens...or are they? Chad Oliver's "To Whom It May Concern", about nothing less mundane than the inheritance passed on by the last tribe of hunter-gatherers; Orson Scott Cards "St. Amy's Tale", about the Rectifiers, who are determined to destroy all traces of technological life on Earth; "The Final Days" by Dave Langford, about a method of detecting observers from the future that thus calls attention to those with future importance--and the ramifications this has to politics; "Recessional" by Fred Saberhagen himself, about a method of retrieving information from the skull of a dead body; "The Child Who Cried For The Moon" by Connie Willis, a beautiful story of a therapy based on observing stories enacted in a distant galaxy; "Grain of Truth" by Charles A. Spano, Jr.,where extinct "borealipithecines" are re-created, and the truth about Santa Claus is determined; "Forward" by Steve Rasnic Tem, a short short story that...well, I didn't understand it...; "Strata" by Edward Bryant, a story about how the earth defends itself from pillaging with the spirits of long-dead creatures; "Forefather Figure" by Charles Sheffield, about an experiment to revive the mind of a Neanderthal; "Experimentum Crucis" by Rivka Jacobs, an odd story about a pair condemned to death in medieval Europe who mysteriously survive several executions; and a trio of poems by Robert A. Frazier about a computer reconstructing the past.

Many of them left me cold(Oliver's, Sheffield's and Jacobs'), or I didn't really get (Tem's and Saberhagen's), but a few were good(Lafferty's, Willis's, Langford's). Altogether an anthology that tends more towards the literary and abstruse, a bit much for my tastes.

%A Saberhagen, Fred
%T A Spadeful of Spacetime
%I Ace
%C New York
%D February 1981
%G ISBN 0-441-77766-X
%P 214 pp.
%O Paperback, US$2.25

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