Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Zion's Fiction: Review

Zion's Fiction: A Treasury of Israeli Speculative Literature (2018) edited by Sheldon Teitelbaum and Emanuel Lottem is the first book of its kind to be published in English. As noted, it is a collection of Israeli science fiction. It also gives a brief history of the genre among Israelis--it was not generally accepted for quite a long time after it became popular in American and elsewhere. And, in fact, it was viewed with great disdain until the late 1970s. But, as is the case with most non-mainstream ideas, it had its followers and practitioners and we finally have a collection of works.

When I was in college (many moons ago), I read a collection of Jewish science fiction called Wandering Stars that provided stories by Jewish authors--primarily American--some with more obvious Jewish themes and enjoyed the stories written from a different perspective. So, when I saw this collection at the library I thought it would be interesting to read Jewish stories from a view different from American Jewish authors. I wasn't disappointed. These stories--more than any science fiction collection I can remember--provide (for this Gentile) a profound sense of other. The very first story, "The Smell of Orange Groves," drove this point home immediately. In fact, the experience was so different for me, that I must confess that I did not fully appreciate all of the nuances surrounding the ideas of memory and family connection that must relate to central Israeli ways of life that I do not understand properly.

The collection is, despite being so very other-worldly for me, a very powerful set of stories. I was particularly moved by "The Slows" (which has the shadow of the Holocaust hovering over it) and "A Good Place for the Night" which takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where only a few have escaped the unnamed plague/weapon/what-have-you that has wiped out most of humanity. These stories speak to the strength of the human spirit and what qualities make us truly human. Other favorites are "Burn Alexandria" in which the non-human makes the ultimate sacrifice to save humanity and humanity's knowledge (echoes of the library at Alexandria also appeal to this book-lover) and "Possibilities" which talks about the power of story-making and makes connections to a well-known Ray Bradbury story. You can't go wrong with Bradbury. Overall, an excellent and intriguing collection that should appeal to all science fiction readers. ★★★★ 

[Finished on 2/6/19]

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