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TESSERACTS.

Edited by Judith Merril. Victoria, Press PorcÚpic, c1985. 292pp, paper, $9.95, ISBN 0-88878-242-X.CIP

Grades 11 and up
Reviewed by Anne Locatelli

Volume 14 Number 3
1986 May


The New York-born Juliet Grossman, who changed her name to Judith Merril, immigrated to Toronto in 1968 and became a Canadian citizen in 1976. Merril has distinguished herself as a free-lance writer, lecturer, and broadcaster and also as a novelist and as an editor. Recognized as one of North America's most prolific science fiction anthologists, Merril has spent the past seventeen years working with science fiction writers of Canada; Tesseracts is her twentieth anthology. This innovative collection is presented as "Canadian science fiction" and includes poetry selections interspersed with the prose. The authors featured in the anthology are both well established and new writers from across Canada. All selections are imaginative, some quite ingenious. On the whole, the format and variety of arrangement are excellent; however, a brief introduction to writer and story might have proved helpful for the uninitiated reader.

Merril's relaxed, folksy style of address in the foreward and afterword seems to be directed to an audience familiar with science fiction and with Canadian writers and poets; some readers may find the name dropping irritating and not very helpful. The "Canadian science fiction" definition that Merril uses is very broad and maybe somewhat weak. In a classroom setting, the reader, teacher, or student might expect the selections to convey something especially characteristic about Canadian culture and values, but they will not usually find that they do.

A few lines of biographical information are provided for each contributor. Arranged in alphabetical order, they are found at the back of the book in a short chapter titled "The Contributors." It should be noted that some of the stories are translated, presumably from the French, though the language of origin is not always stated. About the individual selections only subjective judgements can be made. Personally, I did find some stories more readable and enjoyable than others. Some very definitely transport the reader into the high tech, new wave world, as in William Gibson's "Hinterland" and Gary Eikenberry's "Anthropology 101"; others examine the meaning of being human and look at ways of escaping from such humanity. Elizabeth Vonarburg's "Home by the Sea," Benjamin Freedman's "on the Planet Grafool," and my favourite, Michael G. Coney's "The Byrds," fall into this category. Visions of strange beings and of bleak other worlds, in which time as we conceive it has no meaning, alternate with humorous insights into different milieus, thus providing stories and poems to please a variety of readers. About the book, Merril writes in her afterword: "It's the only place you can do any useful thinking about the idea that there might not BE a future...."

The cover, which displays art by Ron Lightburn, is particularly striking and attractive and deserves a special mention. With Tesseracts Press PorcÚpic is launching its new science fiction line; watch out for Tesseracts II due to appear on the market next year.


Anne Locatelli, Elliot Lake S.S., Elliot, Lake, Ont.
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