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Constellations by Peter Crowther
Review by Cathy Green
Daw Books Mass Market  ISBN/ITEM#: 0756402344
Date: 30 January, 2005 List Price $6.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Constellations, edited by Peter Crowther, is the third in a series of anthologies in which Crowther picked a theme and then solicited stories on the theme from British authors. In this case, according to the back cover blurb, "the authors were invited to explore the greater universe, covering topics as varied as outer space, inner space, cosmology, astrology, Godhood, relationships, and, above all, the Human Condition, and sharing only one thing in common, that they must be set on or in star systems which were somehow concerned with the figures in our constellations". The anthology does not succeed entirely. While the stories are interesting and varied, the constellation hook does not really hold up. However, if a reader is looking for a good collection of recent stories featuring any of the following authors - Eric Brown, Paul McAuley, Brian W. Aldiss, Tony Ballantyne, Stephen Baxter, Roger Levy, Ian Watson, Keith Brooke, Gwyneth Jones, James Lovegrove, Ian McDonald, Adam Roberts, Justine Robson, Colin Greenland and Alastair Reynolds, this collection would definitely be worth the purchase price.

It is hard to pick which stories in the collection that stand out, since most of them are high quality.

A particular favorite of mine was ?Written in the Stars? by Ian McDonald, in which an astrologer is having a bad day because he is having a good day, contrary to what his horoscope said. The story does a good job of handling the theme of predestination versus free will, as the main character mediates on his life, his work, and his marriage and whether things could or should have turned out different. In Tony Ballantyne?s ?Star!? a race of super powerful beings grant a woman?s wish to become a star, complete with planets, proving in the process that there?s no pleasing some people. Gwyneth Jones? contribution to the collection, ?The Fulcrum? features two bicycle and old movie obsessed tourists who become involved in Maltese Falcon style intrigue while vacationing on a space station. Stephen Baxter provides a tale that adds another chapter to Humanity?s war with the Xeelee. Justina Robson contributes a tale of the fracturing of one nuclear family as a result of travel through the space-time continuum. And last in this review but first in the anthology, Eric Brown presents a tale of transcendent love, in which a couple worry that their love will not prove eternal thanks to a race of aliens that have allowed humans to come back after death - an interesting meditation on the ?til death do us part? portion of the marriage vows.

The fact that this review only addresses six of the fifteen stories in the collection by name should in no way be taken as negative criticism of the other nine stories. This is a very solid anthology. There wasn?t a clunker in the whole collection. Fans of the short story form of science fiction and fantasy should definitely consider adding this collection to their bookshelves.

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