Don D'Ammassa's SF Reviews

A Thousand Deaths by George Alec Effinger, Golden Gryphon, 5/07, $24.95, ISBN 978-1-930846-47

The third collection of Effinger's short stories from Golden Gryphon is actually dominated by a novel, The Wolves of Memory, originally published in 1981. A plot summary is going to make it sound like a routine dystopian adventure story, which it sort of is but sort of isn't as well. TECT is a supercomputer that pretty much runs everything and the protagonist, Sandor Courane, pretty much doesn't run anything. He fails at a series of jobs and is exiled to a planet reserved for misfits, where he discovers that the entire population has been given a kind of lingering death sentence. Sounds routine, but Effinger rarely was and this darkly funny and sometimes convoluted novels was one of his best. Courane was a recurring character in Effinger's short fiction as well, although he was killed a few times and wasn't always living in exactly the same world. In his introduction, Mike Resnick points out that Courane was partly autobiographical, one of only three recurring characters in Effinger's fiction.

The other stories all feature Courane, although not all of his adventures are collected here. Most are SF but a couple are fantasy. Of the seven shorts, I'd read all but one before. They vary considerably in tone and setting as well as subject matter. "In the Wings" and "The Thing from the Slush" are the two I enjoyed the most, but I've rarely been disappointed by an Effinger story and none of them are included here. Effinger's health problems and other interruptions are probably the only reason that he never became a much bigger name in the field than he did during his lifetime and, the Budayeen novels notwithstanding, I suspect he will be remembered more for his short fiction than his book-length work. It's good to see another volume of them appear. There's also a very thoughtful afterword by Andrew Fox.

— Don D'Ammassa, SF Reviews, 4/14/07


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