Old Venus by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois, editors © 2015, Bantam Books 2015 hardcover, science fiction short story collection – 16 stories
I came to this both early, and late. This is the second collection of “old” stories by Martin & Dozios, the first being Old Mars, which was published in 2013, and was sufficiently successful to merit this additional collection. I came to this late because I somehow missed the first collection, but early in that I got this one just after it was published.
Both books are retro science fiction themed anthologies, meaning the authors of the stories were asked to write stories of a type we might have read in the 1930s – 1950s, before science trumped imagination by telling us the scientific truth about what the planets were like.
In the case of Old Venus, that means today it’s clear the planet is unlivable for humans, whereas in the “old days” swashbuckling stories of brave explorers, beautiful princesses, man-eating plants, dangerous natives and blaster toting heroes and bandits.
What we have in this collection isn’t a set of old fashioned space drama, but, in almost every instance, stories of a Venus where life abounds and humans and natives struggle with the planet and each other in typical outpost fashion. The stories are marked by clever storytelling, careful plotting, and a careful, sometimes gleeful, nod to the possibilities of adventure on Venus. I enjoyed all but two of these sixteen stories, most of them a lot. In the table of contents list below I put asterisks after my favorites.
Table of Contents, 16 stories:
Introduction by Gardner Dozois
“Frogheads” by Allen M. Steele *
“The Drowned Celestrial” by Lavie Tidhar *
“Planet of Fear” by Paul McAuley
“Greeves and the Evening Star” by Matthew Hughes
“A Planet Called Desire” by Gwyneth Jones
“Living Hell” by Joe Haldeman
“Bones of Air, Bones of Stone” by Stephen Leigh
“Ruins” by Eleanor Arnason
“The Tumbledowns of Cleopatra Abyss” by David Brin
“By Frogsled and Lizardback to Outcast Venusian Lepers” by Garth Nix *
“The Sunset of Time” by Michael Cassutt
“Pale Blue Memories” by Tobias S. Buckell
“The Heart’s Filthy Lesson” by Elizabeth Bear
“The Wizard of the Trees” by Joe R. Lansdale *
“The Godstone of Venus” by Mike Resnick *
“Botanica Veneris: Thirteen Papercuts by Ida Countess Rathangan” by Ian McDonald *
This is a very good collection. Recommended.