I think my favorite book of the year (so far) is George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois’s new anthology, Old Venus, which imagines Venus just as the pulp writers of old: a steamy, swampy jungle planet with strange creatures lurking amidst the dripping vegetation.
Old Venus is a follow-up to Old Mars, a tribute to “the Golden Age of Science Fiction, an era filled with tales of interplanetary colonization and derring-do.” It includes brand new fiction from Lavie Tidhar, Paul McAuley, Joe Haldeman, Eleanor Arnason, David Brin, Garth Nix, Joe R. Lansdale, Ian McDonald and many others. Russell Letson at Locus Online offers an enthusiastic review, saying:
In the introduction, co-editor Gardner Dozois writes that he and George R.R. Martin were looking for a return to the ‘‘heyday of the Planetary Romance,’’ when ‘‘the solar system swarmed with alien races and civilizations, as crowded and chummy as an Elks picnic…’’ These 16 stories, mostly of novelette length, aspire to resuscitate not only the obsolete, imaginary planetology of Old Venus, but the iconography and tropes that filled the pulp adventure stories once set there: the rain-soaked frontier outback where questionable characters meet in roughneck saloons before setting out to find abandoned temples or lost cities, guided or preyed upon by aquatic or amphibious natives, pursued by hungry local fauna, and perhaps tempted by exotic-erotic possibilities…
Ian McDonald’s ‘‘Botanica Veneris’’ is perhaps the most complex structural and thematic response to the book’s challenge: it evokes those adventurous Victorian ladies who traveled the exotic and wild parts of the world, somehow carrying their First World culture in their extensive baggage, while still appreciating and even understanding what they encountered. It also recalls the touristic rambles of Jack Vance, with occasional whiffs of Wodehouse (again) and Jane Austen, plus stronger nods to Hemingway and Kipling in its embedded narratives.
Martin and Dozois’s previous anthologies include the massive heroic fantasy volume Warriors (2010), the Jack Vance tribute Songs of the Dying Earth (2010), and last year’s Rogues (2014). See Letson’s complete review here.
Old Venus was published by Bantam Books on March 3, 2015. It is 608 pages, priced at $30 in hardcover and $11.99 for the digital version. The cover is by Stephen Youll. The complete table of contents is here.
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