Earth Is But A Star – Damien Broderick
UWA Press, April 2001, tpb, $34.95
ISBN 1-8762-6854-9
Review by Jonathan Strahan

Damien Broderick has an impressive reputation as a writer, editor and academic, and he successfully brings all of his skills to his new critical anthology, Earth is But a Star: Excursions Through Science Fiction to the Far Future.

Broderick has gathered fourteen stories, all reprints, by Stephen Baxter, Jack Vance, Gene Wolfe, John Brunner, and Pamela Zoline amongst others, with fifteen essays, all commissioned specially for the book, which build add up to a convincing discussion on visions of the far future in science fiction. The most impressive of the stories is Pamela Zoline's classic "The Heat Death of the Universe", which gives a devastating look at entropy through the eyes of a distraught housewife. It counterpoints nicely with the lush romanticism of Jack Vance's "Mazirian the Magician" and the cold intellect of Olaf Stapledon. However what makes the book work is the way the fiction is underpinned by the critical writings. Brian Stableford contributes an impressive overview of the history of portrayals of the far future in science fiction, while Alice Turner provides a fascinating look at the work of Cordwainer Smith and Russell Blackford looks at Arthur C. Clarke's The City and the Stars.

It's always possible to quibble with any anthology, and I for one wondered at the lack of any stories by Cordwainer Smith, given Turner's convincing piece, or by Greg Egan, who has written of chilling far futures that seem to fit the argument of Broderick's book. But these are minor quibbles. Earth is But a Star is a fine anthology, and a fascinating look at an often overlooked aspect of science fiction. It's the best reprint anthology I've seen this year, and the most enjoyable critical work I've read in a long time.

Damien Broderick's
Earth Is But A Star
(April 2001)
© 2001 Jonathan Strahan
This review originally appeared in Locus
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