It’s been a long time since I’ve read science fiction (1979 to be exact), and to ease back into the genre I chose to read Dan Simmons short story collection Worlds Enough & Time. It was a good choice for two reasons. The first, and most fun, is that each short story is prefaced with an introduction of how the piece came to be and a sometimes dishy insight into what a screenwriter has to go through. The second is the stories themselves; they are plot- and character-driven; a blessing for technophobe readers like myself. Simmons is an old hand at science fiction. He is a screenwriter whose experience includes movies and Star Trek episodes to his credit.
The five stories range from the futuristic “Orphans of the Helix,” a combination space odyssey and quantum physics summary, to “Looking for Kelly Dahl,” a contemporary story where a teacher is hunted by a past student – very Twilight Zone but with a twist. I’ll be honest and admit that I have little patience for the science in science fiction, but thanks to Simmons' introductions I felt like I had been prepped for Science 101. And it was relatively painless.
I know it will sound strange that I’m giving the short stories little attention in this review, but it was the introductions to each tale that won me over. I think Simmons has a nonfiction work up his sleeve; telling tales out of school, as it were, about the television industry is where he really shines. I so enjoyed the introductions to each short story that I wanted to know more about the behind-the-scenes shenanigans and the pitfalls of being a full-time writer.
I enjoyed three out of the five stories. I struggled with the intricate details of futuristic bureaucracy and lineage in “Orphans of the Helix,” and “On K2 with Kanakaredes” didn’t hold my interest long enough for me to finish it.
That being said, I enjoyed "The Ninth of Av." It is an homage to Orwell and a warning that history forgotten is history repeated. The story takes place in 3001, citizens are carefully monitored - shades of 1984 - and the atmosphere Simmons created is an eerily pre-Holocaust Nazi Germany. The mysterious end that humans and post-humans are counting down to is referred to as “the final fax.” I won’t give anything away, but I will say that the tension is maintained from beginning to end.
The introduction to "The End of Gravity" was a particular favourite of mine in which Simmons explains the love-hate relationship writers often have with Hollywood. His anecdotes make for a great read.
If I could split my rating I would give 2 ˝ stars for the stories and 3 stars for the in introductions which I loved.