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Intelligent Design
Edited by Denise Little
Review by Ernest Lilley
DAW Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780756405687
Date: 01 September 2009 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

In a brave effort to engage the issues of the day, editor Denise Little has collected eleven stories that focus on intelligent design. Unfortunately, though there are a few gems in the collection, most of the stories fall short of the mark. This collection won't expand anyone's perception of the subject, but can only affirm some and annoy others.

There are a number of excellent short stories about intelligent design, but for the most part, these aren't them. These are mostly second or third string efforts, which wind up with a conundrum that only makes sense to the protagonists if a "divine" hand is stirring the pot. Pity, because it's an interesting subject that the best minds have struggled to make sense of, but you don't get that from Intelligent Design.

What you do get is a version of Holmes's law: "When you've eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." The problem is that Holmes is encouraging inductive reasoning...and there's no way to know when you've eliminated everything else when it comes to questions of divine intervention.

Let me throw some disclosure in here. My father was a minister (Presbyterian) and though I'm not what I would consider religious, I do belong to a church (Presbyterian) where they already know I'm not much on blind faith. In fact, from my point of view, it's not really about faith, but that's a different story.

Now that I've gotten that off my chest, there are a few stories here that I consider useful additions to the subject, and the first story in the book, "Year of the Rat" by Kristine Kathryn Rush, is a good example. It's about a family that's equal parts fundamentalist (Christian) and academic and the internal struggles that come along with that. The crisis in the story comes from the discovery of a statistical proof that reveals god's hand at work, but it's fortunately left offstage, and the story is about the characters grappling with faith and family.

The second story, "God, No Matter How You Spell It" by Brendan DuBois, looks to be of the weird things happen, therefore god variety...but a touch of humor and a bit of perspective in the epilogue save it from too much certainty. But only just.

"Int Des 101" by Jean Rabe gets an A+, for doing just what I'd hoped for in this collection. By twisting the viewpoint of the main characters around she can engage in a straight on look at the subject and still tell a good story. It the uses point of view to make exposition manageable, but it's clever, and the POV character is engaging enough to make it work.

"Made Manifest" by Jody Lyn Nye falls from grace though, when the discovery of a rare beetle whose crystalline wings turn out to be incredible cell phone signal boosters winds up being the proof of the almighty. One wonders if old school prophets were ever startled by a voice from the heavens saying..."Can you hear me now?"

"The Signature of God" by Michael Herbert stumbles as well. It's got good writing, good storytelling, and a fine emotional arc. It only jumps the shark in the last paragraph, which is supposed to be clever...but it's still deal-breaker for me.

There are other stories in the collection that work for me, like "Project: Creation" by Laura Resnick, but too many fall short, like "Final Report on the Eden Project" by Bill McCay. Too often I get the feeling that the author has decided where they're going to wind up...and declare the mission accomplished when they run out of things to say.

There are a number of classic stories that would fit right in here. "Microcosmic God" by Theodore Sturgeon, "Let There Be Light" by Issac Asimov, and "The Million Names of God" by Arthur C. Clarke, all have something to say on the subject.

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