Multiverse: Exploring Poul Anderson's Worlds
Edited by Greg Bear and Gardner Dozois
Cover Artist: Bob Eggleton (also interior illustrations)
Review by Benjamin Wald
Subterranean Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781596065024
Date: 30 April 2014 List Price $40.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Multiverse is a posthumous tribute to the versatile SF and fantasy author Poul Anderson. Anderson's work is particularly well suited to this kind of tribute, since he had several ongoing series of short stories that other authors have contributed an extra story to in this anthology. Anderson's series of Dominic Flandry stories and his time patrol series each get three new stories in this anthology. Anderson also wrote some innovative and highly regarded fantasy novels, and there are a number of stories that riff off of these.
The stories are all entertaining and well crafted, but several feel mostly like adventure yarns, without that much substance. There are some standouts, however, and fans of Anderson's will appreciate the chance to revisit the settings of some of his most famous works.
One of my favorite stories comes early in the collection, "The Man Who Came Late" by Harry Turtledove. It's a story set thirty years after a climactic battle to save the world from the forces of chaos, when the erstwhile champion from our world has finally managed to return to his long lost love, only to find her happily married with two children. It's a quiet character story, exploring what happens after the evil is beaten and regular life resumes.
"Three Lilies and Three Leopards (And a Participation Ribbon in Science)" by Tad Williams is a remarkably successful comic fantasy story. A bureaucratic error results in the wrong person being transported into a fantasy world to try to save it. Instead of a highly competent chemical engineer and former SAS officer, a manager of a shoe store ends up being tasked to save Roland and France. Humor is a difficult thing to manage in a fantasy work, but Williams pulls it off remarkably successfully.
There are also some strong SF contributions. Gregory Benford's contribution, "Bloodpride", does a great job of sketching a convincingly alien culture. "Latecomers" by David Brin provides a fast moving and exciting action plot, with a new twist on how we might integrate artificial intelligences into our society.
Not all of the stories are as successful. Robert Silverberg contributes a surprisingly lackluster tale of the time patrol, which has some interesting ethical speculations, but not much in the way of true tension. Eric Flint's "Operation Xibalba" is just one thing after another, piling were-dinosaurs on top of demons on top of Mayan God's in a rambling and underwhelming tale. Much as I appreciate Poul Anderson's work, this anthology did not strike much of a cord with me.
There are some strong stories, but despite the high power line-up, there are better anthologies for your money out there. If you are desperate to hear new tales in Anderson's classic series, then check it out, but otherwise, you can give this one a miss.