Friday, January 2, 2015

Ten Thousand Light-Years From Home: Review

Ten Thousand Light-Years from Home (1973) was James Tiptree, Jr's (Alice Sheldon) first published book. As a first short story collection, it contains some quite brilliant work as well as a few weaker entries. But overall, Sheldon exhibits an imagination and dark humor that rivals Harlan Ellison's. Her stories reflect her interests as a psychologist--ranging from the alien among us (whether an actual alien or a human who feels out of place among his peers) to women's roles to love, death, and humanity's place among the stars.

The best stories are also the most poignant and include "The Man Who Walked Home" and "Forever to a Hudson Bay Blanket." Each of these deal with time travel and, unfortunately, neither has what the reader might call a happy ending. But they are all the more powerful for that. There are also two complementary stories, "Mama Come Home" and "Help" (aka "Pupa Knows Best"), that give us a slightly different take on humanity's first contact with an alien race. Laced with humor, Sheldon questions how our fairly primitive (on a universal scale) society might behave when faced with the unknown. Especially an unknown that looks an awful lot like us.

This volume of stories has been sitting on my TBR shelves since 1988--back when I was in the midst of my heavy-duty SF phase. My first contact with Sheldon's work was her very beautiful novel Brightness Falls from the Air. I adored that novel as a teenager and snatched up this book of short stories when I found it....and then ignored it for about thirty years. Shame on me.

A good introduction to Sheldon's work. If you enjoy her best stories here, then I would definitely suggest moving on to Brightness. ★★ and 1/2.


Jim Black said...

I never read this collection but remember liking numerous short stories by Tiptree when they first appeared in the magazines. Sounds like this collection would appeal to me.

fredamans said...

I am not usually big on time travels stories, but the dark humor and aliens appeal to me. Plus I do love short stories! Great review, and good start to the year!

Carl V. Anderson said...

I need to read her one of these days. I have heard so many good things, and her story is both fascinating and sad. There are always just so many books to read.

Bev Hankins said...

Carl, she's really good. I've got a biography on her that I need to read as well.

Carl V. Anderson said...

I checked out the bio from the library once but didn't get to it. I would like to at some point, though.