Nebula-winner Finch's many fans as well as SF readers who have yet to encounter her work will welcome this collection of 10 short stories and a novella that showcase her unique contribution to the genre. Making excellent use of her graduate work in linguistics, Finch creates the Guild of Xenolinguists (later called lingsters), a formal organization devoted to translating the languages of other worlds. Much as Asimov did with the Three Laws of Robotics, Finch creatively examines the conflicts stemming from adherence to the guild's strict rules. The stories span a wide range, from "First Was the Word," a brief tale setting the stage for the development of the guild, to the moving "A World Waiting" and "A Flight of Words," which present their protagonists with morally difficult situations — tortured prisoners, conflicting religious beliefs, abortion — that hold significant contemporary resonance. A thoughtful foreword by New Wave luminary Ian Watson and an engaging afterword by Finch (Birds) discuss the linguistic theories that underlie the fiction.(Sept.)
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