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Viewpoints Critical: Selected Stories by L.E. Modesitt
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Tor Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765318572
Date: 18 March 2008 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Story collections are an important part of science fiction and fantasy. They have launched and sustained the careers of many of the genre's masters. They allow insights into universes and allow authors to examine new ideas in a shorter form. Sometimes they lead to expansions and new novels. Viewpoints Critical is the first short story collection by Modesitt. It contains the first story he sold as well as tales from a couple of his most popular universes. There are 19 stories, each with a brief introduction to prepare the reader for the coming tale. These introductions are very helpful and improved the readability of the collection.

Recounting each story would be tedious and not truly helpful. So instead here are a few of the high points. There are two stories set in the Recluce, one from Corus, a story about the cost of fighting on the cheap, and an interesting piece on getting what you want.

The first Recluce story is "Black Ordermage", which recounts Cassius' coming to Recluce and his earliest adventure. I liked this story, but would have preferred to have even more information, especially related to the accident that causes the rip between universes. Readers and fans will know where Cassius came from and gain a better understanding of how he was able to get into a position of authority.

The second Recluce story was my favorite in the collection, "Sisters of Sarronym, Sisters of Westwind". This story from Jim Baen's Universe gives a different perspective, set during the original settling of Recluce by Creslin. It is the first-person story of Shierra, the Westwind guard captain who volunteered to go to Recluce in support of Creslin. The relationship between Shierra and her sister Fiera helps to explain the relationship of Megaera and her sister. The first-person point of view is similar to the style used in the Lerris novels. Recluce fans will really enjoy this one.

The Corus tale is a little of what might have been. Modesitt says that the story was the starting point for the stories set on Corus, but things changed in the novel development, so things aren't exactly the same. Modesitt's storytelling is evident, making this story a nice supplement to the final product.

We know that people always want a first-class product for the lowest price. Also, some people think that newer is always better. In "Iron Man, Plastic Ships" Captain McCaine, head of search and recovery of a deep space base, must run the gauntlet of "new" and ill-conceived ships. Pressured to bring a redesigned recovery ship, McCaine chooses the only path that can save lives, one that should ultimately lead to his removal or death.

"News Clips from the NYC Ruins" isn't what you first expect. This is not a 9/11 tale. Through a series of news briefs, the story of the degradation of the United States is told. Some of the twists are laugh-inducing, but it is also a cautionary tale of becoming too PC and allowing the bar to be set too low.

Story collections are not often bestsellers. That doesn't mean they aren't worthwhile. Most of this collection can be read with no prior knowledge of the author's previous works. Knowledge of the Recluce world is needed for the two stories set in that world; the rest are accessible to everyone. L.E. Modesitt's character development is top-notch. If you haven't read anything by him, pick up this book and introduce yourself.

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