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Book Review

Distant Signals

Reviewed by Robert J. Sawyer

Distant Signals by Andrew Weiner, Press Porcépic (A Tesseract Book), Victoria, B.C., 1989.
Reviewed by Robert J. Sawyer
First published in The Canadian Book Review Annual, 1989

Copyright © 1989 by Robert J. Sawyer
All Rights Reserved

Toronto writer Andrew Weiner dons two hats with equal confidence. One's the crisp fedora of Bay Street (he's a renowned business journalist, best known perhaps for his The Financial Post Moneywise Magazine Dictionary of Personal Finance, Random House, 1987). The other is a space helmet: his science fiction writings are among the most literate and thoughtful in the field (his critically acclaimed novel Station Gehenna was published in Canada by Congdon & Weed in 1987).

Now small-press publisher Tesseract Books has gathered a dozen of Weiner's more than 30 short stories into Distant Signals, a long-overdue collection. Ten of the pieces are reprints from such genre staples as Amazing Stories, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine; the remaining two are originals.

Weiner sometimes writes about future business trends. Of the stories gathered here, "Waves," about a long economic lull, and "Fake Out," dealing with knock-off copies of brand names, are the two best of that type (indeed, "Waves" may be Weiner's masterpiece). He also writes with a sly, ironic humor: the title story "Distant Signals," about a strange investor looking to revive a long-forgotten 1950s TV Western, and "The Man Who Was Lucky," about a fellow whose persistent good fortune brings him to the attention of alien gamblers, are particularly witty. And lastly, Weiner, who holds a master's degree in psychology, plays with the softer sciences often ignored in SF, in stories such as "Going Native," about an alien in group therapy, and "Rider," a voyage by one person into the mind of another.

The book suffers from the lack of introductions, either to the collection as a whole or to the individual stories, and Tesseract Books should be ashamed to have used what appears to be a laser printer instead of traditional typesetting equipment to prepare the camera-ready copy. But the raison d'etre for a collection such as this is to spotlight the talents of a worthy author, and it's hard to imagine an author more worthy than Weiner. Highly recommended, both as a pleasurable read and as a teaching collection.

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