Rocky Mountain News Review



UNREAL WORLDS

Live! From Planet Earth
By George Alec Effinger (Golden Gryphon, $25.95).
Grade A

George Alec Effinger, who died in 2002 at age 55, was as close to a unique talent as science fiction has seen. Live! from Planet Earth, the second collection of his short works published by Golden Gryphon, showcases the wide scope of his powers.

From his best-known story, "The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, Everything," a whimsical tale about well-meaning extraterrestrials who drive Earth people nuts with their dogmatic opinions, to "One," a narrative about a lonely man's discovery that he's alone in the universe, the 21 stories and the single poem in the volume run the gamut of emotions and science-fiction styles.

Fourteen of the stories are accompanied by introductions or afterwords written by significant authors of the genre, including Michael Bishop, Bradley Denton, Pamela Sargent and Neal Barrett Jr. These short essays reveal significant insights into Effinger and the influence he had on his fellow writers.

No one but Effinger could have crafted "Solo in the Spotlight," where the first daughter helps the president face a crisis using her Barbie tarot cards, or "From Downtown at the Buzzer," where a team of stoic aliens is good for only one thing — basketball.

But the highlight of the book is a section of seven stories and the poem the author wrote under the pen name O. Niemand (German for nobody). In each of these works, Effinger adopts the style of a classic mainstream author to show what that author might have done if he'd written science fiction.
If readers didn't know it was Effinger behind the pen, they'd swear they'd found undiscovered manuscripts by Mark Twain, O. Henry, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, James Thurber, Flannery O'Connor, Ring Lardner and poet Don Marquis.
As Gardner Dozois says in his introduction to these literary pastiches: "Enjoy this jewel-case full of small marvels. . . . In their own small way, they are unlike anything ever done in science fiction before, and you will never see their like again."

This statement could equally apply to all of Effinger's works.

— Mark Graham, Rocky Mountain News, June 24, 2005



 

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