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Forbidden Planets by Stephen Baxter
Review by Colleen Cahill
DAW Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 0756403308
Date: 07 November, 2006 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

The authors might have started with the movie as a source, but all have created original works that salute the film but never copy it. Matthew Hughes brings us a noir tale of an alien object that seems to be able to manipulate emotions in "Passion Ploy". In "Lehr, Rex" by Jay Lake, the rescue of a long lost ship is made complex not only by a crew who does not want to return home and the Captain's mysterious daughters, but by some strange orders from the Imperial Navy. Paul McAuley's "Dust" also deals with a rescue, but this time its of a Captain who is forced down to the planet at gun point, a planet where two parties of explorers have already disappeared. One man tries to save his lover in Paul Di Filippo's humorous and hopeful "The Singularity Needs Women!", which combines a bit of 1950s science fiction with a Vingean touch. A failed rescue of a sentient mound in Stephen Baxter's "Dreamers' Lake" could reveal one of the reasons humans explore and what they are seeking, while Adam Roberts' "Me-Topia" looks at a group of space faring homo neanderthalis who crash land on a planet that seems to be Earth, except the sun is rising in the west.

Many of the stories use familiar names and themes from the film, as in Chris Roberson's "Eventide" which starts with the crash of the ship Phonix (the name of the ship in the movie was Bellerophon). In Alastair Reynolds' "Tiger, Burning", someone seems to be leaking information about the top-secret KR-L machinery and these leaks go back to the time of Shakespeare. Michael Moorcock presents us with Prospero Pigeon who is investigating the mistreatment of a sentient biosphere named Temptation II in "Forbearing Planet". For any who forgotten the details the movie, you might want to read Stephen Baxter's after word first, to get all the particulars on that classic.

All these are strong tales of science fiction, ones that touch on the themes of being lost, of the dark power of the mind, and of the dangers of alien worlds, but many also explore the brighter side of humanity, with its willingness to help those in need or to explore new ideas as well as new worlds. The one thing none of these stories have is a cliche plot or cardboard characters and with writers such as Ian McDonald, Scott Edelman and Alex Irvine a superlative work is to be expected.

Certainly Forbidden Planets is a fitting tribute to the movie, but it is also a fine collection that should be read just for the excellent stories within, ones that will take you to worlds rich in wonder and amazement.

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