We Install and Other Stories, by Harry Turtledove ****

weinstallScience fiction is a big house with a lot of rooms. Turtledove has managed to leave his calling card in almost all of them, and includes a couple of thought-provoking essays as well. Once again, I send hearty and heart-felt thanks to Net Galley and Open Road Integrated Media for permitting me to glimpse this collection in advance, and free of charge. It goes on sale in August of this year.

I used to read more science fiction than I do now; one reason is that a big branch of it has veered into tech-speak that requires more knowledge than I possess in that field. But another reason also occurred to me as I read these stories, sometimes voraciously and at other times more tentatively, and that is that sci fi requires a flexible mind, and as we get older, our brains don’t bend as readily. Now that I know it, I will require myself to read it more frequently, because they say to use it or lose it, and I’m not ready to surrender yet. I did find that there were too many characters and relationships introduced in too little time for me to keep up with “Down in the Bottomlands”. This one won the Hugo Award, so I am fairly sure the flaw is mine rather than his. Maybe those of you that are younger and more oriented toward this genre will find it more to your taste.

However, I loved “Hoxbomb”, a thought-provoking twist on the notion of computers having intelligence of their own. And I actually laughed out loud during parts of the first selection, “Father of the Groom”, and also “Birdwitching”. The temerity of “Under St. Peters” left me nearly breathless with admiration; the guy will end up on the Banned Books list for sure if this collection sells well.

Maybe most intriguing of all is the subgenre of alternate history. Turtledove’s essay made me want to roll up my sleeves and write again. How much fun could it be?

All told, this is a meaty collection that the sci fi lover should read when it’s possible to do so. I promise you’ll have a great time, and stretch your mental muscles in the process.

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