Flights of Eagles (NESFA's Choice)
by James Blish
Review by Steve Sawicki
NESFA Press Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781886778863
Date: 20 October 2009 List Price $29.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK /
James Blish was best known for two things--having continued the Star Trek original series in book form and for creating the Cities in Flight series. He is also credited with coining the term Gas Giant. What he is less known for is his wildly diverse writing career where he moved from space opera to finely honed literary works to criticism of the field so scathing that he had to write under a pseudonym.
For this collection, however, what he will be remembered for is his skill as a writer. The collection includes a number of short stories, including two which have not previously appeared in any Blish collection published in North America, along with three novels: Welcome to Mars, Jack of Eagles and Get Out of My Sky. Tom Shippey provides an erudite introduction which delves into some of the controversy surrounding the attempts to categorize Blish as one type of writer or the other.
Blish is a writer who's range was broad but whether he was writing science fiction or fantasy, he always strove for a logical accuracy and consistency, which made his fiction somewhat different from others who were writing at the time. Blish was also more focused on concepts than character so while his mayor of the space going city of New York is important to the story, he is not as important as the city itself, the technology that drove it, or the solution to whatever dilemma was being overcome. His fiction was not always easy to read as Blish was known to pull in and relate to a wide array of other fiction and cultural reference. Perhaps the only writer to compare to Blish is Damon Knight, who actually co-authored a number of works with him.
The is yet another fine book from the good folks at the New England Science Fiction Association, or NESFA. These are the same people who put on Boskone each year, which is a great convention to attend and a great place to go look at all the books that NESFA has produced. As with all NESFA press books, this book is of extremely high quality, and serves to fill a yet widening gap between work that literally makes up the bedrock of all modern SF and Fantasy.
Highly recommended for fans of Blish that are and those yet to be.