Welcome to the first issue of The Wonder Spyglass - Retrospective Reviews of Science Fiction and Fantasy on the Blogcritics site.
The idea of these time trips is to highlight the particular stories throughout SF&F history (all 100 years of it). Each week I will publish Spyglass issues, giving selective reviews to stories, collections, original anthologies and novels, choosing out of literally thousands of stories I've read personally. We will be taking jumps of 10 years in SF history, making it a fun perspective on the development of the genre.
Please keep in mind that these notes reflect only my personal reading experience and do not necessarily correspond with the impact a story had on SF field in general, or with the generally accepted verdict from the critics.
This issue will highlight stories from the last couple of years, next one will go deeper in time - to 1996, 1986 and so on, to 1906 (taking ten year jumps from 2006).
(Click to enlarge cover images)
also in: Nebula Awards Showcase 2006
--novella : 2004 Hugo award - winner
--novella : 2004 Locus award - winner
--novella : 2004 AnLab /3rd place
Do you remember the movie Office Space ? It seems like Vernor Vinge buried "his red stapler" inside this haunting novella, so that his readers will be plagued by images of corporate hell worthy of Dilbert's worst. It certainly puts a stop to dreams of a cozy desk job in sunny California, grazing around the campus of some hip computer corporation. Instead of perks, freedom and stability the employees here get something quite different... and you get a sinking feeling from the moment the first email arrives in the story.
I enjoyed this novella as much as The Matrix movie, perhaps even more. It's classier, more hilarious, although deceptively simple: most of it happens inside a generic industrial park, with the main characters having a reckless adventure... by walking from one building to the other. Soon, however, the daily grind turns into a nightmare (and/or conspiracy) worthy of Kafka and Philip K. Dick. As our characters realize that they have become part of the biggest reality scam since The Truman Show, they have nothing left to do but to slowly trickle their brains on the pavement, hoping to "cool off" their thought processes, or to shuffle around in a zombie-like fashion, trying to figure out the implications of the plot.