Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Door Gunner

THE DOOR GUNNER and Other Perilous Flights of Fancy, A Michael Bishop Retrospective, edited by Michael H Hutchins, Subterranean Press, $45, 528 pages, ISBN: 9781596063747, reviewed by Barry Hunter.

So far, I’ve read this fantastic collection of Michael Bishop stories twice (which, including the first time I read them over the years, means some of them are on the fourth or fifth reading), and I have yet to find a bad word in it anywhere, Each word is exactly where it needs to be and is the best word for its context. Michael Bishop is that good, and his stories are memorable and thought provoking. He is one of those writers that will be remembered and appreciated in the future.

I first read Michael Bishop in 1975 with the publication of A FUNERAL FOR THE EYES OF FIRE, and have done my best to read everything he has written since. He is one of the few writers who have been nominated for almost every award in the field, and he has won the Nebula twice (“The Quickening”, 1981 and NO ENEMY BUT TIME, 1982, The Mythopoeic Fantasy Award (UNICORN MOUNTAIN, 1988), The Shirley Jackson Award (“The Pile”, 2008), and a Rhysling Award for poetry (“For the Lady of a Physicist”, 1979).

Every word in this volume is golden. From the Preface by Michael Hutchins and the Introduction by Jack McDevitt to the stories (starting with “PiƱon Fall”, 1970 and concluding with “The City Quiet as Death” written with Steven Utley, 2009) and the author’s Story Notes, this collection belongs in every true science fictions fans library. The stories show Bishop’s range of subject matter and growth as a writer; they give us alien worlds as seen by humans and Earth as seen through alien eyes. The writing prompts not so much a sense of wonder as much as a sense of awe at the messages one takes away from reading the collection.

It’s hard to pick a favorite from the twenty five stories presented here. Each elicits varying thoughts and emotions, and I’m sure they will affect the new reader similarly. Stories that hold a special place are “Blooded on Arachne”, “Within the Walls of Tyre”, “The Door Gunner”, “Bears Discover Smut” and “The Pile”. Bishop bears his soul in some of the Story Notes, and several times these brought a tear to my eye, especially the comments about his children, Jamie and Stephanie. In complete fairness, Mike and I have been friends for many years, but the friendship is separate from my role as a reviewer. He is a tremendous writer and the review is solely based on the writing. Don’t let this one get by you. I don’t know of a better way to spend a few dollars to get maximum enjoyment from a book.

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