by Jack Dann

Five Star Press


256pp/$25.95/April 2003

Cover by Christopher Wait

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Visitations Jack Dann’s collection from Five Star Press, contains a variety of stories spanning the twenty-nine years, from the 1972 publication of “I’m with you in Rockland” to the  2001 story “Ting-a-Ling.”  Although not arranged in chronological order, the stories do provide an insight into the growth of Dann’s career as an author as well as the progress made by the genre as a whole over a thirty year span.

Despite the vast range of the stories, there are common themes and tropes which run through them, possible a result of Dann’s selection process as much as anything else.  Both the earliest story and the latest one deal with cars and feelings of loneliness, even when with other people.  Not unique to those stories, these object appear in several other stories as well, notable “Night Visions,” which also explores the need to control dangerous and capricious impulses.

Not all the stories deal with these themes.  In “Reunion,” a man attends his own funeral and has the opportunity to say his goodbyes to his various relatives and see how they respond to his death and the decisions he made in his life.  Rather than being a story of loneliness, Stephen Neshoma discovers that despite his thoughts of loneliness, his family still accepted him, for all their disagreements.

Similarly, “Vapors,” which takes as its setting the world of Dann’s novel The Memory Cathedral, focuses on the power of friends when Leonardo da Vinci leads a contingent to rescue an ailing Sandro Botticelli.  Like Neshoma in “Reunion,” Botticelli finds he has more friends, and more loyal friends, than he had realized.

The slightest story in the collection is probably the brief vignette, "A Cold Day in the Mesozoic," in which a young boy has the opportunity to see a living dinosaur.  Most of the stories are much longer and stronger in both their writing and in the themes they explore. 

One aspect of Dann’s writing which sets him apart from many SF authors is the fact that he pays careful attention to his writing style, which makes his stories more “literary” than many of the tales which grace the pages of the science fiction magazines and anthologies.  Readers who are willing to work with Dann's level of writing will find themselves rewarded by stories which stay with them long after they have closed the cover of Visitations.

Visitors Blind Eye
Reunion Between the Windows of the Sea
The Glass Casket The Dybbuk Dolls
Night Visions Ting-a-Ling
Timetipping Counting Coup
A Cold Day in the Mesozoic I'm With You in Rockland
Vapors Amnesia

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