IMPACT PARAMETER and Other Quantum Realities
Landis's first short story collection (after his well-received first novel, 2000's Mars Crossing) contains 16 distinguished stories published between 1984 and 1999, with an author's afterword providing valuable insights into the genesis of individual stories as well as Landis's attitudes toward his work. In balancing his expertise as a working scientist against his obvious love of language and emotional sensitivity, Landis consistently achieves striking characterizations within the confines of ingenious futuristics. Because he feels that SF ought to offer hope that the future will be better than what's past, most of these stories end, if not happily, at least positively. In the Hugo-winning "A Walk in the Sun," a marooned spacewoman saves herself by walking 11,000 kilometers around the moon, and, in the enormously moving "Beneath the Stars of Winter," starving zeks in Stalin's bitter gulag create a hymn sub voce to the indomitable human thirst for freedom. Many of the author's central figures are outcasts, like the wry narrator of "Outsider's Chance," who outwits (or does he?) space pirates; the lesbian heroine of "Across the Darkness," who will help found a world that will never forget the dreams that made it; and the unforgettable Sarah of "Snow," a homeless prostitute and a gifted mathematician. Landis's preference for the scientific puzzle story is also evident in "Into the Blue Abyss," a startling exploration of the enigmatic planet Uranus, and in "The Singular Habits of Wasps," a stunner of a Sherlock Holmes story hinging on entomological life cycles. Landis's finest success, though, transcends mental acuity and dazzling storytelling: he gives "hard" science fiction a heart.
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