The Collected Short Fiction of C.J. Cherryh
by C.J. Cherryh
Review by Edward Carmien
Daw / Penguin Putnam HCVR ISBN/ITEM#: 0756402174
Date: 02 February 2004 List Price 23.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
The contents of Sunfall and Visible Light (Cherryh's previous short story collections) are present. Each has new material included. Fifteen other stories round out this comprehensive collection.
Cherryh readers will see the genetic ancestors of some of her novel length work in these stories. Tensions coil within characters, cultures are consistent and believable -- Cherryh's yen for research and exactitude is palpable if not presented in detail-- and there is always room for surprise. One feels the depth of the settings. The main strength of this collection, overall, is the opportunity it affords Cherryh readers to see her prose evolve over time, as the stories are largely arranged chronologically (the new material in the Sunfall and Visible Light sections is the exception). Her early stories show Cherryh has always been an exacting and professional writer, a writer of (for lack of a better term) "literary" depth. Then sometime during the mid-80's, perhaps between "Companions' and "The Brothers" we see the lights come on a bit brighter as Cherryh takes more certain control of the short form.
Accordingly, readers new to Cherryh should not begin with the works from Sunfall. Turn to the back of the book, or possibly to the Visible Light section. Go back to the Sunfall stories only after reading stories like "The Sandman, the Tinman, and the BettyB," and "Pots". In these post-Sunfall stories one hears Cherryh's contemporary voice, more refined and fluid prose. Turn to the first stories in the collection only after establishing a more contemporary first impression of Cherryh's work.
I thank DAW Books publisher Elizabeth R. Wollheim for her role in making this collection a reality. This text will live a long and valued life on my bookshelf. The stories are the main attraction (even "A Much Briefer History of Time", a one paragraph wonder), while the completeness of the collection and Cherryh's own introductory material serve as frosting on the cake. I recommend all readers of Cherryh's work consider acquiring The Collected Short Fiction of C.J. Cherryh. For readers yet to be illuminated, it is a good pick too, but also consider starting with one of Cherryh's science fiction titles, such as Foreigner or Hammerfall. (See my recent review of the paperback release of Explorer for other Cherryh reading tips.)
(Shameless Plug: Elizabeth R. Wollheim isn't the only person who thinks more work by and about Cherryh should see print -- look for The Cherryh Odyssey, a collection of essays about Cherryh's literary life and career, to come out in late summer 2004 from Wildside Press.)