3 out of 4 stars
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NOVOPULP 2 is an anthology of fourteen science fiction stories. The cover suggests a theme relating to golden age “pulp” sci fi, but the stories themselves are very much a mixed bag. Probably the one quality most of them have reminiscent of this time is a rich setting, and a twist ending. But the level of execution varies wildly and generally is poorer the further into the collection you go.
The best stories come early in the collection and had me very excited that this would be a 5 stars sort of book (a rating I do not give lightly). I am a huge fan of old sci fi stories by the likes of Bradbury, Silverberg, or Van Vogt. Three of the four stories in part one would not suffer much by comparison. 'Precog Profile', 'The Dreamer Dreams', and especially 'the Miracle Cure' have great settings and wicked twists about which I can say very little in order to avoid spoilers. I finished reading these stories several weeks ago and have thought of all three several times since then.
The stories in the rest of the anthology are mainly lackluster by comparison. Only 'Dangerously Unqualified' is truly thought provoking especially in its final resolution--in which the author credits the reader with being able to understand the true significance of what happens without having it explained to death. As I continued, the rest of the stories were more run of the mill, having weaker twists (Watchers), no twist (The Hard Part), drawing things out too long (The Final Advice), or explaining them too much (The Laughingstock of the Universe)–-thereby leading to stories that are at best amusing and did not have the impact of those in Part 1. The concept of bookending the collection with a story in two parts is clever but the story itself really only works as a character study and has a borderline clichéd plot.
One way these modern stories clearly exceed their historic counterparts is that many have female main characters, and they are fully rounded characters not the geeky-guy’s-dreamchick type that even the masters of the genre were prone to writing. (By comparison a few of the male characters are rather two dimensional clever space action heroes). The art in the anthology is noticeably less accomplished than the prose, being a collection of sci fi art clichés from space dragons to fractals.
Overall this anthology impressed me less than it should have given that its stories had a higher hit to miss ratio than the great majority of modern sci fi anthologies, with the best being on par with the golden age masters. It may be because the three best stories were also the first three, so that I read the rest are with palpable feeling of disappointment. Overall I decided it was fairest to rate the anthology based purely on the quality of the stories overall as this is more important than the unfortunate choice made in how they were arranged. In that basis I would rate this anthology 3 out of 4 stars.
NovoPulp Anthology - Volume 2
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