When I first went through the list of prompts for the 2018 Reading Challenge to see what, if anything, came to mind for each one, I was struck by #11, a book with a female author who uses a male pseudonym. I knew instantly I wanted to read something by James Tiptree, Jr. Tiptree showed up on my list of must-read science fiction writers, so this was an easy choice.
In my search, I ultimately decided on Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, a short story anthology of some of Tiptree’s best work. Originally published between 1969 and 1981, the stories contained in this anthology encompass a range of ideas and themes. There are aliens on Earth and humans on alien planets, space travel, time travel and futuristic scenarios. Many of the stories contain feminist ideas. I noticed, too, that much of Tiptree’s writing has a rather pessimistic outlook on humanity.
My favorite story is probably “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” This story jumps back and forth a bit in time as it progresses, and this drives the tension up. Surprise follows surprise until the end of story. The writing is superb.
There is also “The Screwfly Solution” that kept me reading to the end in a sort of horrible fascination. And “The Man Who Walked Home” about an experiment that’s gone horribly wrong. These, and many of the stories will keep the reader guessing right up to the end.
All the stories are written with vivid imagery. They really come alive off the page. This book is amazing, and I loved every bit of it. I’m pretty sure I missed the deeper messages within some of the stories, but they still kept me completely spellbound, I needed to keep reading. I will read these stories again.