I am a fan of science fiction and fantasy literature, preferably in novel form. All too often, the short story form neither excites nor interests me. There have been some exceptions, but generally I keep away from short stories.
As you may have guessed, Zion’s Fiction – a collection of Israeli fantasy and science fiction short stories – was an exception. It wasn’t only that I wanted to support this venture, but also that I knew almost nothing about the local fantasy and SF scene, and this was a perfect opportunity to start learning about it.
The Foreword (by Robert Silverberg) is fine.
The Introduction (by editors Sheldon Teitelbaum and Emmanuel Lottem) is informative, but a real slog. It’s a touch too much of the high brow, and also seems focused on squeezing every last one of the editors’ pals and acquaintances in. The worst part is that it did not engage me. The writing seemed limp and lifeless, with an absence of humor. I’m sure some others will love it.
Most of the stories were OK, but truly no more than that. There wasn’t one that made me think ‘Wow, I’m really glad I read that.’ Unfortunately, there were a couple that made me think ‘Wow, I’m really sorry I wasted my time reading that.‘ In short, a big disappointment.
The best of the stories, to my mind, is Keren Landsman‘s Burn Alexandria. (I believe Keren, who writes in Hebrew, has a novel coming out in English this year from publishers Angry Robot. ) Perhaps this seemed better because it’s one of the longer pieces and had time to develop more fully. The end, however, was exactly as I anticipated, and left me somewhat underwhelmed.
Probably the best known author of the lot is Lavie Tidhar. His The Smell of Orange Groves reminded me of work by China Mieville. That’s not a good thing. The story did not work for me. It came across as half an idea, half a dream, and wholly missing the entertainment point. Not for me, old boy.
The Afterword by Aharon Hauptman is spot on: short, snappy, and to the point. Well done that man!
I am sure – he said, entering optimist mode – that there are many great pieces of Israeli science fiction and fantasy out there. But none of them are in this book. At least I bloody well hope not.
Avi Katz‘s illustrations are OK, and the cover is clever.
But the best thing about it? The title.