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Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show
Edited by Orson Scott Card
Cover Artist: Tomislav Tikulin
Review by Andrew Brooks
Tor Books Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765320001
Date: 05 August 2008 List Price $15.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Interview: Orson Scott Card / InterGalactic Medicine Show Website / Show Official Info /

I'll be honest, I've often wandered over to Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show website, but I've yet to do more than see if there are any free stories up or peruse a few of the articles in each issue. It's not the price that has kept me from buying, it's pretty darn cheap for the amount of stories in each issue, but for whatever reason I've held off. If the eighteen stories in the newly released Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show (IGMS) anthology are a good representation of the quality there, however, then I've made a mistake and have lot of reading to do. IGMS showcases the best from, I believe, the first four issues and makes for some great reading for those who can't get enough of the short form.

Editor Edmund R. Schubert has also opted to do something that I wish a lot more anthologies would. After each story there is a short one or two paragraph, occasionally reaching an entire page, afterword from the author. The first anthology that I read that incorporated this was Paragons, edited by Robin Wilson, and I've always wondered why it wasn't done more often. Now Paragons features essays after each, and the focus there is more on the crafting of a short story, but it's the same idea. It's a great way to delve a bit deeper, to find out how this or that story came about. It's one small touch, certainly, but it added to the book as a whole and, for me anyways, made the experience a little richer. For those of you who don't want to know, or don't care, how the tale comes about then skip them. If it's the meat and potatoes you came for you won't be disappointed.

For brevity's sake I won't touch on each story and every story, and rest assured that those I'm skipping aren't bad, I'm just going to review the ones in the anthology that I really liked. The ones that, like a good short story will do, stuck with me long after I set the book down.

I'll start with Card's "Mazer in Prison". It follows Mazer Rackham as he takes a solitary loop through space, for no other reason than that Earth needs him to be their commander once the fleet has made it to Bugger territory. I first read Ender's Game a long time ago, but I wish I'd known what is revealed about Mazer at that time. Card hadn't written the story at the time, of course. I don't recall much, if anything, Card has written about Mazer before to be honest. Strictly reading about Mazer in Ender's Game doesn't give the character justice. Seriously, if Card wishes to write another in the Enderverse I hope he gives us a story about Mazer during the first Bugger war. We also get a bit of Graff in this story, although his appearances are taped recordings, his negotiating with Mazer to help them in a different way. It's a great set-up to Ender's Game, at least those two characters, and one of my favorites in IGMS.

I'll cut to my favorite right now. "To Know All Things That Are In The Earth" by James Maxey is a post-apocalyptic tale of angels appearing on Earth. When they begin dragging people off with them the world believes it's the Rapture or End Times, and those left must not have been truly saved. What they find out as the story goes along, though, turns that theory in another direction that I don't wish to give away. Would it ruin the story? It might not, but the joy of Maxey's short is in the discovery and what the characters really believe. Like Eric James Stone's "Tabloid Reporter to the Stars", this story touches on how perceptions shape action. The afterword by Maxey is both touching and why I mentioned earlier that these brief story biographies greatly enhance your reading. "To Know" has become one of my favorite short stories, a list that's pretty long but that contains stories that are of the near and dear variety.

The third story that really impressed me was "Dream Engine" by Tim Pratt. Set in a world that is some kind of hinge in the universe, a world in which people and things can be pulled from other worlds when they're close enough, "Dream Engine" was a blast to read. Some detail that really pulls you pops up on seemingly every page and that's important to me when reading about a city or place that's so unlike those from other stories. But I like stories with weird cities, and Nexington-on-Axis fits that bill perfectly. Pratt, in talking about his weird city in the afterword, describes the population of the city as magpies of the universe and that sums it up better than I probably could. But even under the neat idea of a place that takes what it wants from other places, including entire buildings being pulled and placed in the empty quarters of the city, the story is very well done. Howlaa Moor, a shapshifting/city enforcer, and his partner Wisp are sent out to find and stop what they think to be an unstoppable entity that's accidentally been pulled down with the other stuff by the coty's creep 'orphans'. This is another story that I hope gets made into a novel. It's great stuff! Highly imaginative, with humor and action perfectly spread throughout.

That's one of the things that I thoroughly enjoyed about IGMS. A lot of the shorts were ones I felt could be expanded into novels, or the ideas within used as the basis of a book. "Respite" by Rachel Ann Dryden, is the story of two colonists fighting for their lives as well as each other, on a planet quite a bit more hostile than they'd been led to believe. The ending is horrific, but the setting would make for an extremely interesting book. And "Audience" by Ty Franck has a similarly interesting future setting that begs for more exploration. Granted, not all of the shorts in this anthology would work in the novel form, but even those that wouldn't are as good as those that would.

IGMS Volume 1 features newcomer and veterans alike, and is a showcase for the quality stories over at the IGMS website. Highly recommended as you'll probably be reading stories from the future heavy weights of the SF/Fantasy genre.

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