Rocky Mountain News Review


By Pamela Sargent (Golden Gryphon Press, $25.95).  Grade: A-

Golden Gryphon Press makes no mention that its new Pamela Sargent collection, Thumbprints, marks the 25th anniversary of the publication of the author's first novel, The Sudden Star. However, this classy overview of her work rightly celebrates one of science fiction's finer (yet lesser known) talents.

"Gather Blue Roses," Sargent's first published story, foreshadows recurring existential themes in her later works. In this brief tale, the narrator recounts the horrors and unwarranted guilt of those who lived through the Holocaust, and what she has learned about the atrocities performed by the soldiers and guards on women in the camps (including her own mother):
"An old man, a doctor, had said to me once, 'The best ones of us died, the most honorable, the most sensitive.' And I could thank God I had been born in 1949; there was no chance that I was the daughter of a Nazi rape."

"Shrinker," one of my favorites, is more lighthearted than most of Sargent's efforts. To save money, a writer who's heavily in debt has his wife use a shrink ray to make him 5 inches tall. He lives in a dollhouse for three months while he writes his new novel. The last line is worth waiting for.

Most of Sargent's works are set in the present or foreseeable future. Uncharacteristically, "Utmost Bones" takes place in a distant time when most of humanity is either dead or exists only as personae loaded into the Net. Kaeti, perhaps the only "real" person left, finds out what loneliness really means.

While the other 11 stories were previously published in a wide variety of venues, the title novelette, "Thumbprints," is original to this volume. In it, a nefarious literary agent seems to be killing off his writers so he can sell their final works in tiny limited editions, signed by the authors' thumbprints. By the way, just in case he wants to make more money, he's keeping the thumbs.

If you haven't already discovered Sargent through her Nebula-winning novelette, "Danny Goes to Mars," or such fine novels as The Shore of Women and the three books in her Venus series, Thumbprints is an excellent introduction and should make you enthusiastic for more.

— Mark Graham, Rocky Mountain News, Books: Brief reviews, December 24, 2004


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