edited by James & Kathryn Morrow



336pp/$26.95/June 2007

SFWA European Hall of Fame

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

One of the problems with the various translation anthologies that have previously been published is that they have either relied on existing translations, or have used translations which are of lesser quality.  James and Kathryn Morrow resolved to avoid those problems with SFWA European Hall of Fame by getting new translations which have been created with the input from science fiction authors, to make the stories as literate as possible.

Jean-Claude Dunyach creates a world with two characters in “Separations.” His dialogue is set on a distant spaceship traveling to the only human colony, but the real story appears to be in the different philosophies of Captain Bascombe and his passenger, the tridichoreorapher Contrapunt. Neither man is willing, or able, to give the other what he needs, and their relationship appears headed towards a stalemate, when Dunyach throws a curve in the strange manner in which his universe works, although neither the dialogue between the two men or the world in which they exist seem to come fully to life.

One of the standard ideas in science fiction is the exploration of a new world. In “A Birch Tree, A White Fox,” Elena Arsenieva has a trio of cosmonauts exploring a brutally hostile planet, although it seems more a fantasy world than a science fictional world. Two of her characters, Miroslav Gurov and Sasha Lapushkin learned that the sound of a human voice would bring instant death.  Even as Arsenieva deals with their silences and what that means to their humanity, she provides the reader with a travelogue of an interesting, and strange, planet.

“Sepultura,” by Valerio Evangelisti, is set in Brazil and is the first story in the anthology to take full advantage of the author’s native culture.  In the near future, Brazil treats its political dissidents in a ghastly and inhumane manner, made possible by the discovery of a new polymer.  Although Evangelisti includes a few hooks that don’t have a pay-off, overall, “Sepultura,” named for the prison in the story, is a very satisfying story.

In “The Fourth Day to Eternity,” Ondrej Neff produces a portrayal of paranoia in the scientist Drabek, who is holed up in a chateau where he is convinced his enemies attack him every four days.  The only real indication that the attacks don’t actually occur is from the arms dealer Sapkowski, who provides Drabek with his needs, but questions the lack of damage to the chateau.  Neff clearly desires the reader to accept Sapkowski’s vision of Neff, and when an attack on the chateau does occur, the reader questions the reliability of the narrator, even as Drabek’s research is revealed and ties in to the frequency of the attacks.

Johanna Sinisalo’s story “Baby Doll” is a disturbing look at the maturation of young girls in an increasingly sexualized world.  Focusing on eight-year-old Annette and her eleven-year-old model sister, there is no judgmental reaction to the girls’ desires and attempts to increase their sexuality or their parents’ support of Lulu’s career as an underwear model.  Into this mix, Sinsalo adds traditional sibling rivalry as Annette feels that her needs and desires are overlooked by parents who are too focused on Lulu’s career, eventually leading to the possibility that the cycle will be repeated.

Just as Arsenieva examined the meaning of humanity, so, too, does Marek S. Huberath in  ““Yoo Retoont, Sneogg. Ay Noo”.” Huberath’s world is a post apocalyptic world in which his characters seem to be strange creatures raised in a crèche type situation.  What is happening, however, doesn’t become fully apparent until Snergg,  Huberath’s protagonist, escapes from the crèche, even as he acknowledges its importance in making him the person he has become.  The second half of the story, focusing on Snerg’s post-crèche life, is stronger, although it builds on the earlier portion of the story to provide both its emotional and plot denouement.

An earlier translation of “The Day We Went Through the Transition,” by Ricard de la Casa & Pedro Jorge Romero was nominated for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History.  This new translation is based on the earlier work. Mostly a time travel story based around a minor event in Spanish history, de la Casa and Romero manage to bring a thoughtfulness to time patrol stories which is too often lacking as they examine not only the romance of the two main characters, but, more importantly, the nature of cause and effect.

“Athos Emfovos in the Temple of Sound” is a story that looks at the power of music (or, really, any other art form), by Panagiotis Koustas.  As a war appears ready to unfold, a strange peace movement, guided by mathematics and music, appears to be unfolding.  The story, broken into short segments, each introduced by a mathematical formula, tends to be fragmented in its telling, partly by the division of such a short story into sections.

Lucian Merişca  provides the first real dose of humor in the collection with “Some Earthlings’ Adventures on Outrerria.” The story of human mercenaries on an alien world looks at the problems of imperialism, but does so with a background that is almost absurdist in nature, reminiscent of the work of Jasper Fforde and including the first laugh-out-loud moments in the anthology.

“Destiny, Inc.,” seems like a standard story of the magical shop, although rather than just appearing on a street at random for a short period of time, the store in Sergei Lukyanenko’s story.  Destiny, Inc. is open full time and provides its clients with a chance to trade portions of their destinies with other people. It is an interesting concept and its affect of Sors, who initially visits in order to deal with his aviophobia, eventually comes to see the full potential of the shop and make use of it, eventually coming to realize that the shop isn’t as wonderful as he hopes.  It is an entertaining story, although Sors’s revelation is based on, perhaps, too literal interpretation of a conversation he has.

Andreas Eschbach explores the issue of mortality in “Wonders of the Universe,” an ironic title since his narrator, pilot Ursula Froehlich is preparing to die on Europa and practically ignores the wonders of the universe around her to focus on her internal failings and angst.  At the same time as Ursula realizes that rescue is not coming for her, she reveals that there is wonder even in the most mundane of lives, whether people realize its existence of not.

“A Night on the Edge of the Empire” demonstrates the difficulties inherent in interspecies relationships when the alien Croap’tic tries to find a location for an embassy in an Earth city in Joao Barreiros’s tale.  Appearing as a giant peacock, the ambassador, VibrantSong, is accompanied by a mammalian Chriptic, which can provide the Croap’tic with abilities the Croap’tic does not have.  Throughout the story, humans completely misunderstand the aliens’ relationship, sometimes to humorous, sometimes to tragic results as Barreiros points out the inherent differences between human cultures.

“Transfusion,” by Joëlle Wintrebert is an existential and almost minimalist story of Barbel Hachereau.  As Barbel wanders through a strange and hallucinatory garden, she comes into contact with her past and present, but the tale seems more less a piece of science fiction, or even fantasy, and more a music on life.

“Verstummte Musik,” is a strangely dystopic vision of the future by W.J. Maryson in which humans are culled from an over crowded world by the calculations of a computer.  When Ana Laïra Jermina Von Fuchs goes for her periodic rating, her husband gives her a cryptic message.  As Laïra waits her turn, a variety of thoughts about her world going through her head until the computer makes its decision and she must deal with the aftermath.

José Antonio Cotrina looks into the difficulties surrounded a complete change of worldview in “Between the Lines.” Alejandro, of course, does not feel there is anything wrong with his worldview.  In fact, he feels life is going splendidly.  In the final semester of college, he has found a position at an ad agency and simply wants to take his courses on his own time, rather than at the lecture times that would conflict with his work schedule.  A chance encounter with Professor Herman Müller, however, results in him signing up for a course he has no interest in and finding that opening himself up to new things might be just what he needed.

The anthology closes with “A Blue and Cloudless Sky,” by Bernhard Ribbeck.  This is the most overtly religious story in the book, taking place on a planet with a strong Christian basis and the threat of oblivion in their sky in the form of the Crown of Stars.  It also has a messianic story which creates a cyclical history for the planet.  While this could have been a safe and familiar story, Ribbeck provides an excellent switch at the end which raises it above the expected.

 Jean-Claude Dunyach Separations French Sheryl Curtis
Elena Arsenieva A Birch Tree, A White Fox Russian Michael M. Naydan & Slava I. Yastremski
Valerio Evangelisti Sepultura Italian Sergio D. Altieri
Ondrej Neff The Fourth Day to Eternity Czech Jeffrey Brown
Johanna Sinisalo Baby Doll Finnish David Hackston
Marek S. Huberath “Yoo Retoont, Sneogg. Ay Noo” Polish Michael Kandel
Ricard de la Casa & Pedro Jorge Romero The Day We Went Through the Transition Spanish Yolanda Molina-Gavilán & James Stevens-Arce
Panagiotis Koustas Athos Emfovos in the Temple of Sound Greek Mary & Gary Mitchell
Lucian Merişca  Some Earthlings’ Adventures on Outrerria Romanian Cezar Ionescu
Sergei Lukyanenko Destiny, Inc. Russian Michael M. Naydan & Slava I. Yastremski
Andreas Eschbach Wonders of the Universe German Doryl Jensen
Joao Barreiros A Night on the Edge of the Empire Portuguese Luís Rodrigues
Joëlle Wintrebert Transfusion French Tom Clegg
W.J. Maryson Verstummte Musik Dutch Lia Belt
José Antonio Cotrina Between the Lines Spanish James Stevens-Arce
Bernhard Ribbeck A Blue and Cloudless Sky Danish Niels Dalgaard

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