Gravity Wells : Speculative Fiction Stories
by James Alan Gardner
Review by Barry Newton
Eos Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 0060087706
Date: 01 May, 2005 List Price $15.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
In physics, a gravity well is a concept which deals largely on the effect of any objects gravity on the path of a particle, vehicle, or light beam which passes through it. Where the gravity is sufficiently strong, the path is bent, may be deformed into an ellipse, or even become a decaying elliptical orbit.
In literature, Gravity Wells is a collection of 14 pieces of James Alan Gardner?s short fiction, written over the last fifteen years. It includes two Aurora award winners, and one shortlisted for both the Hugo and Nebula awards. Pretty impressive. The title works well for this collection, as the stories, not written to any specific theme, pull the reader in volatile and arbitrary directions. "Muffin Explains Teleology to the World at Large" is about a young lady who is considerably more than she seems. This story is very much worthy of Algis Budrys, to whom the collection is dedicated along with Kim Mohan. "Children of Creche" might be studied with interest by both sides of the right-to-life controversy, and could appeal to horror aficionados as well. "Kent State Descending the Gravity Well" seems more an academic study than speculative fiction of any sort, viewing the Kent State killings from differing points of view. "The Young Person?s Guide to the Organism" takes the same approach, but is far more effective as a story, looking at differing reactions (and interactions) as an alien entity moves through our solar system. "Three Hearings on the Existence of Snakes in the Human Bloodstream" is an interesting look at the clash of science and religion, which veers off into alternate reality. I really feel that this story has potential as a novel. "The Last Day of the War, with Parrots" is a fascinating consideration of a unique approach to warfare. "Sense of Wonder" is an amusing reminder of what?s uppermost on the mind of adolescent males, regardless of topic.
One interesting aspect of this collection is the author went back to his original script in every case - most, if not all, have been printed at least once, and some many times. But even though he has revised them himself as a more mature writer, the rough edges sometimes show through.
These stories, and others I have left to the reader, all have their own specific gravities and weights. They will pull different observers differently; it?s difficult to imagine anyone liking all of them, but there is something there to affect the future course of anyone who enters Gravity Wells.