Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Thu Jun 21 12:57:59 EDT 1990

Raymond's Reviews #73

%T The Gentle Seduction
%A Marc Stiegler
%I Baen
%D July 1990
%O paperback, US$3.50
%P 277
%G 0-671-69887-7

This anthology of short stories showcases the talents (and, sadly, a few of the weaknesses) of Marc Stiegler, the author of the excellent novel David's Sling. Many of these pieces have appeared in Analog.

The centerpiece of the anthology is the title story, a techno-optimist paean of incredible power and beauty that is unquestionably Stiegler's finest work to date. It is immediately followed by the nonfiction piece Hypermedia and the Singularity, which makes a factual case for the future described in The Gentle Seduction.

The other high points of this anthology are Petals Of Rose (a story about the impact of lifespan on a sentient's view of the Universe) and Evolution Of Entropic Error In Closed Conservative Systems (a Probability Zero big-science spoof). Both are well worth owning.

Stiegler is very much a Campbellian writer; optimistic, evangelically rational, himself a working technologist. Unfortunately, two other stories (Masters Of The Mortal God and Too Loving A Touch) display characteristic pre-Campbellian excesses; they combine melodramatic can-he-save-the-world plots and space-opera props with rather inept characterization and clumsy prose.

In fairness, these are both early works; in fact it looks from the publishing history like Masters was an early rejectee that Stiegler hauled out of the trunk for this anthology. It should have stayed there. And Bully dates from 1980; the other material demonstrates that Stiegler has learned a great deal about writing since then.

The remaining story, A Simple Case Of Suicide, is competent but unexceptional. Unlike the others, it is set in a "Club of Rome"-style future beset with galloping overpopulation and resource depletion.

Overall I do recommend this anthology, most esprecially to hard SF fans and nanotechnology enthusiasts and all interested in Vernor Vinge's concept of "the Singularity". I'm sure Stiegler will continue to grow as a writer, but even if he doesn't the title story should secure him a place in the pantheon of SF's greats.

Rather than wishing that he give his all to become an SF luminary on the level of Niven or Brin, though, I hope his creative energy will go into making the future of The Gentle Seduction real in the ways he describes in Hypermedia And The Singularity. I want to live that future, not just read about it.

Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Thu Jun 21 12:57:59 EDT 1990

Eric S. Raymond <esr@snark.thyrsus.com>