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Iterations

by Robert J. Sawyer

A caveat to start: this new collection of short stories from Toronto writer Robert J. Sawyer isn’t new. Rather, it’s a reprint of a 2002 Quarry Press edition, published here under Sawyer’s own imprint with an eye to the American market.

Consider the reprint an opportunity to catch up. These 22 stories (each featuring an introduction from Sawyer highlighting some aspect of the science involved or explaining the story’s genesis) demonstrate both the breadth and depth of Sawyer’s vision. From prehistoric vampires to orbiting murder mysteries to intergalactic exploration, nothing is off-limits to Sawyer’s imagination.

Sawyer is a fundamentally human writer, at least as interested, in these stories, in emotional insight as he is in technology and cutting-edge scientific theory. All of the stories are rooted in strong characterization, wtih an immediate accessibility rarely found in short fiction. The format also helps curtail some small problems that creep into Sawyer’s longer fiction. The restrictive length doesn’t allow for any excess verbiage or pedantry, or for getting bogged down in scientific minutiae – the science never crowds out the story.

While the collection is strong throughout, there are a few highlights. “You See But You Do Not Observe” is a Sherlock Holmes pastiche set 200 years after the detective’s death. The story gains surprising emotional resonance from a restaging of that fatal fight with Moriarty atop Reichenbach Falls. “Lost in the Mail” is a deeply affecting look at life paths not taken and the steps the universe takes to ensure that those choices are made correctly.