21 December 2007
Every story in this collection merits re-reading
Macmillan Publishing Company, 1979
I have to agree with fellow Amazon reviewer "foolsguinea" regarding this book. It definitely needs to be returned to print (with, perhaps, many of the other volumes in Macmillan's "Best of Soviet SF" series from the late 1970s). Based on the quality of the short stories contained in this volume, the late Dimitri Bilenkin had an SF voice that merits being heard by a much wider audience. As Theodore Sturgeon notes in his introduction, Bilenkin excels at tackling the question "if this goes on...", perhaps because he has (quoting Sturgeon), "a profound respect for the potentialities of science and its ability to open doors to achievement and to understanding both outer space and that far more vast inner space of the mind and heart, the fact---forgotten by so many science-worshippers---that respected and orthodox science gave us leeches and cups to draw blood from the desperately ill, malformed babies, filthy air, denuded hillsides, dead lakes, and industrial disasters" (p. xi). This recognition and respect for the limitations of science, as well as for the intersections of science with society and ideology, does not prevent his stories from being infused with a magical, lyrical quality evoking at once the wonder of a child and the wisdom of the aged. Every story in this collection merits re-reading, because with each reading subtler shades of meaning and humor are revealed, in the best tradition of Russian literature.
(This review was originally written on May 4, 2007.)