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Gravity Wells: Speculative Fiction Stories

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Award-winning author James Alan Gardner evokes a sense of wonder that is synonymous with great speculative fiction. Now, in his first short-story collection, he brings together the numerous tales that have made his reputation, ranging from the everyday experience to the cosmic, from peanut butter sandwiches to space drives. There are stories of wonder, imagination, humanit Award-winning author James Alan Gardner evokes a sense of wonder that is synonymous with great speculative fiction. Now, in his first short-story collection, he brings together the numerous tales that have made his reputation, ranging from the everyday experience to the cosmic, from peanut butter sandwiches to space drives. There are stories of wonder, imagination, humanity, and the unknown and tales that remind us of the importance of possibility. Some of the stories in this collection have won the Aurora Award and the grand prize in the prestigious Writers of the Future contest and been nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, while others are completely new and undiscovered. Contents: Muffin Explains Teleology to the World at Large (1990) The Children of Crèche (1990) Kent State Descending the Gravity Well: An Analysis of the Observer (1992) Withered Gold, the Night, the Day (2005) The Last Day of the War, with Parrots (1995) A Changeable Market in Slaves (2005) Reaper (1991) Lesser Figures of the Greater Trumps (2005) Shadow Album (1991) Hardware Scenario G-49 (1991) The Reckoning of Gifts (1992) The Young Person's Guide to the Organism (1992) Three Hearings on the Existence of Snakes in the Human Bloodstream (1997) Sense of Wonder (1998)


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Award-winning author James Alan Gardner evokes a sense of wonder that is synonymous with great speculative fiction. Now, in his first short-story collection, he brings together the numerous tales that have made his reputation, ranging from the everyday experience to the cosmic, from peanut butter sandwiches to space drives. There are stories of wonder, imagination, humanit Award-winning author James Alan Gardner evokes a sense of wonder that is synonymous with great speculative fiction. Now, in his first short-story collection, he brings together the numerous tales that have made his reputation, ranging from the everyday experience to the cosmic, from peanut butter sandwiches to space drives. There are stories of wonder, imagination, humanity, and the unknown and tales that remind us of the importance of possibility. Some of the stories in this collection have won the Aurora Award and the grand prize in the prestigious Writers of the Future contest and been nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, while others are completely new and undiscovered. Contents: Muffin Explains Teleology to the World at Large (1990) The Children of Crèche (1990) Kent State Descending the Gravity Well: An Analysis of the Observer (1992) Withered Gold, the Night, the Day (2005) The Last Day of the War, with Parrots (1995) A Changeable Market in Slaves (2005) Reaper (1991) Lesser Figures of the Greater Trumps (2005) Shadow Album (1991) Hardware Scenario G-49 (1991) The Reckoning of Gifts (1992) The Young Person's Guide to the Organism (1992) Three Hearings on the Existence of Snakes in the Human Bloodstream (1997) Sense of Wonder (1998)

30 review for Gravity Wells: Speculative Fiction Stories

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kelly H. (Maybedog)

    Another great offering by one of my favorite authors, this collection of short stories are very enjoyable, thought provoking and gripping. Much of his work is light-hearted, others much heavier, all of entertaining. I didn't think there was a weak spot in the entire collection. I enjoyed it immensely. Another great offering by one of my favorite authors, this collection of short stories are very enjoyable, thought provoking and gripping. Much of his work is light-hearted, others much heavier, all of entertaining. I didn't think there was a weak spot in the entire collection. I enjoyed it immensely.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Baal Of

    Good collection of imaginative stories, with a bit of an experimental tack to the writing style. I particularly liked the penultimate story that blended religious resistance to science with an evolutionary twist, spanning 100's of years. Good collection of imaginative stories, with a bit of an experimental tack to the writing style. I particularly liked the penultimate story that blended religious resistance to science with an evolutionary twist, spanning 100's of years.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kristy

    I really liked this book. I don't generally go right for sci-fi/fantasy/spec fiction, but I think I will be reading more Gardner in the near future. Great, imaginative, unique voice. Very good stories that left an impression even months after reading. I am happy I chose to read this. Now, back to Faulkner. Oh, hell no. Fuck that guy. I really liked this book. I don't generally go right for sci-fi/fantasy/spec fiction, but I think I will be reading more Gardner in the near future. Great, imaginative, unique voice. Very good stories that left an impression even months after reading. I am happy I chose to read this. Now, back to Faulkner. Oh, hell no. Fuck that guy.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Simon Mcleish

    Uneven short story collection which doesn't in the post part read like the League of Peoples books, which I enjoyed. I picked up this collection expecting more of the same, and was disappointed as a result. Uneven short story collection which doesn't in the post part read like the League of Peoples books, which I enjoyed. I picked up this collection expecting more of the same, and was disappointed as a result.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    up and down collection of short stories.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Young

    Some very interesting science fiction concepts in here. I mostly read this to find out if I were interested in the League of Peoples series, and I can definitely say I am interested.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Alexander Kosoris

    I didn’t actually know who James Gardner was until attending the 2015 Ad Astra science fiction and fantasy writers’ convention, where I had the pleasure of sitting in on several author panels in which he participated. Despite the clear knowledge he displayed within the intelligent discussions I witnessed, nothing really made me want to run out and devour a Gardner book until another author mentioned his short story, “Three Hearings on the Existence of Snakes in the Human Bloodstream”––in which t I didn’t actually know who James Gardner was until attending the 2015 Ad Astra science fiction and fantasy writers’ convention, where I had the pleasure of sitting in on several author panels in which he participated. Despite the clear knowledge he displayed within the intelligent discussions I witnessed, nothing really made me want to run out and devour a Gardner book until another author mentioned his short story, “Three Hearings on the Existence of Snakes in the Human Bloodstream”––in which the first observations of Rh-positive blood with early microscopes are interpreted as blood borne serpents, indicative of sin, and society subsequently divides between the “righteous” and the “sinners.” I immediately did my research, and found it was from a short story collection called Gravity Wells. (It actually proved quite difficult to track down. The copy that eventually found its way into my collection was apparently discarded from an Ohio library, at least according to its stampings.) Excitement in this case actually made way to hesitation, for at least a couple reasons. Firstly, I often worry speculative fiction that sounds interesting won’t make the leap to compelling narratives, depending on the care and skill of the author. Secondly, even if the writer who tackles the short story collection is very strong and highly respected by me, they may not be able to do the medium justice, when compared to the novel. (For every fabulous Daydreams of Angels, there’s a Bagombo Snuff Box: a collection that has a few good stories, but where most disappoint me.) Knowing nothing of Gardner’s writing, I wasn’t sure where this collection would fall, and so I waited quite some time to actually pick it up, worrying that my rose-coloured imagination would be shattered with an actual peek. It turns out I probably should have checked it out much sooner, as Gravity Wells easily holds its own among my favourites. Not only are all the stories interesting, not only does Gardner show that he has the skills to push his concepts a step further––to be compelling––but he also demonstrates his amazing range throughout the collection. We start out on the right foot, with a great combination of light-hearted storytelling and the profound in “Muffin Explains Teleology to the World at Large,” and we hop all over between the melancholy (“The Reckoning of Gifts”), the laugh-out-loud hilarious (“Hardware Scenario G-49”), and even the downright scary (“Shadow Album”). While I was very impressed by the aforementioned “Three Hearings,” my favourites were probably “Kent State Descending the Gravity Well: An Analysis of the Observer”––a tale built around an intriguing metaphor, focused on an author’s apprehensions at approaching a delicate subject with the proper respect––and “The Young Person’s Guide to the Organism”––with a story structure inspired by a musical work from the ’40s that was designed to introduce children to the various instruments in a symphony orchestra. And keep in mind that, as well as containing some extraordinary stories, the collection had none that I would consider bad. So, Gravity Wells comes with my highest recommendation. Even if you don’t usually lean toward the sci-fi side of things, it’s still well worth at least a glimpse.

  8. 4 out of 5

    M—

    This is Gardner's first collection of stories, and the stories inside are largely reprinted from previous publications. I haven't read much of Gardner before, and I picked this book up at the library based on the awesomeness of the title of the first story ("Muffin Explains Teleology to the World at Large") and the fact that story won an award. And "Muffin" was good, but the two stories that I really loved were: "The Last Day of the War, with Parrots" and "The Young Person's Guide to the Organis This is Gardner's first collection of stories, and the stories inside are largely reprinted from previous publications. I haven't read much of Gardner before, and I picked this book up at the library based on the awesomeness of the title of the first story ("Muffin Explains Teleology to the World at Large") and the fact that story won an award. And "Muffin" was good, but the two stories that I really loved were: "The Last Day of the War, with Parrots" and "The Young Person's Guide to the Organism." "The Last Day" begins with a rock star and his entourage descending upon a deserted planet to film a new music video, and ends with race to find an effective way to use the living biological weapons left hopping innocently around. "The Young Person's" was a set of vignettes that kept building and building into a gorgeous story. An alien spacecraft is drawing towards Earth's sun, and a variety of individuals encounter it as it travels, reacting with fear, wonder, worship, joy, hate, and acceptance, not that the craft does much in response. Each vignette is separate, but each blends so well as it leads up to the next. This story was particularly interesting as it laid the basic scifi elements for the world Gardner's novels are set in. Gardner takes this neat, rather choppy approach to quite a few of his stories. Like, for "Later Figures of the Greater Trumps," the story as a whole was compiled by a dozen individual tarot descriptions; and for "Shadow Album," the story was flashback reveiled in increasing detail as the protagonist examined his photographs. I tend to think of this writing as circular, and I've always found it fascinating. As an added bonus, Gardner wrote an introduction to the collection that contains a little paragraph or so about the background of each story. I love learning things like that from writers.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sean Randall

    it's always fun to read a new author and the stories here certainly range the gambit. The Children of Creche reminded me of A Clockwork Orange somehow, not for any violence I can think of. Maybe I'm just weird. Kent State appealed to me because of its interest in people as people, and also provided a glimpse into a creative mind toying with story possibilities - even though thematically that wasn't the intent, I read that. The Last Day of the War, with Parrots - now there's a true, hard science f it's always fun to read a new author and the stories here certainly range the gambit. The Children of Creche reminded me of A Clockwork Orange somehow, not for any violence I can think of. Maybe I'm just weird. Kent State appealed to me because of its interest in people as people, and also provided a glimpse into a creative mind toying with story possibilities - even though thematically that wasn't the intent, I read that. The Last Day of the War, with Parrots - now there's a true, hard science fiction sttory - and good to see that it's set in the LOP universe, which have more books, joyful joyful! Lesser Figures of the Greater Trumps is a take on the arcana I've never seen before and quite amusingly so in its own way. Shadow Album is also very good, a little surreal, a little Saberhagen-ish, and The Reckoning of Gifts was short but fairly gripping. The Young Person's Guide to the Organism is also part of the LOP, or at least tangentially so - and I liked this one, too. Two good reasons to try that series, I think. of course not all of the stories are big hard-hittters - Three Hearings on the Existence of Snakes in the Human Bloodstream I liked for its historic points (and the origin of species was priceless), and Sense of Wonder had me chortling all the way to bed. A variety of themes and an easy-to-follow style for the most part, this is certainly a great intro to the author for me and worth flicking through. Even if all the stories don't appeal, at least one is bound to.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Zachary

    This is quite a collection of short stories here. I think the most awesome thing about it is how it displays Gardner's gift of creativity. Some of the ideas behind the stories are just brilliant. And it was a very nice touch to add in comments by him about each of the stories. My only complaint in that is that those comments were all located at the beginning of the book - separated from the specific story each was a bout. So I spent a decent amount of time flipping back and forth from comments t This is quite a collection of short stories here. I think the most awesome thing about it is how it displays Gardner's gift of creativity. Some of the ideas behind the stories are just brilliant. And it was a very nice touch to add in comments by him about each of the stories. My only complaint in that is that those comments were all located at the beginning of the book - separated from the specific story each was a bout. So I spent a decent amount of time flipping back and forth from comments to short story. Of the stories, I think "The Children of the Creche" is one of my favorites. Not so much because of the twists, but because in the end, the would-be hero becomes almost a greater villain. "Muffin Explains Teleology to the World at Large" is by far the funnest of the stories included. And I would have to include "Reaper" as another of my favorites for its insight, as well as just some of the repartee included. So would I recommend it? Absolutely. Gardner doesn't flinch from sexual themes or tones, but for the most part he doesn't delve too deeply into that vein. And for any aspiring writers out there, this is another excellent collection of short stories to dig into.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Badly Drawn Girl

    What a pleasant surprise! I have to start off by explaining that I am not a regular reader of Science Fiction and I had never heard of the author before reading this book. I love short stories however and so I decided to give this book a chance. I'm very glad I was open minded enough to tackle a genre that tends to intimidate me. Sci-Fi, to be perfectly honest, tends to require too much thought for me to enjoy the story. I just don't have much interest in the typical ingredients of a sci-fi stor What a pleasant surprise! I have to start off by explaining that I am not a regular reader of Science Fiction and I had never heard of the author before reading this book. I love short stories however and so I decided to give this book a chance. I'm very glad I was open minded enough to tackle a genre that tends to intimidate me. Sci-Fi, to be perfectly honest, tends to require too much thought for me to enjoy the story. I just don't have much interest in the typical ingredients of a sci-fi story and at times they make me feel less than intelligent. That's why James Alan Gardner is a wonderful writer. A great writer doesn't allow the genre to dictate the plot. Yes, there are some common themes in science fiction that he touches upon but it's all done in such a refreshing manner. These stories may seem familiar and yet they have new twists, or insights to offer. Each time one story ended, I would gear up with a bit of dread for the next one. I was waiting to be overwhelmed, or confused and yet I found each story to be not only understandable but illuminating. I am going to seek out more by James Alan Gardner and I highly recommend this collection for people who enjoy well written, thought provoking stories regardless of their genre!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Stuart Dean

    Picked this up because it had the first League of Peoples story (the actual First Contact in fact). It has a wide variety of stories which seem to be about Gardner testing a bunch of writing theories. Stories written from odd POVs, a story written by the author about himself writing a story, open ended stories, all things that look like writer workshop experiments. They were ok, but the only ones I really liked were "The Young Person's Guide to the Organism" and "Three Hearings on the Existence Picked this up because it had the first League of Peoples story (the actual First Contact in fact). It has a wide variety of stories which seem to be about Gardner testing a bunch of writing theories. Stories written from odd POVs, a story written by the author about himself writing a story, open ended stories, all things that look like writer workshop experiments. They were ok, but the only ones I really liked were "The Young Person's Guide to the Organism" and "Three Hearings on the Existence of Snakes in the Human Bloodstream" which both oddly were collections of scenes across a period of time from different viewpoints. I've read the same kind of thought experiment collections from John Brunner and Harlan Ellison and come away with the same thoughts. Some stories really good, some not so much, and a bunch of WTF?

  13. 5 out of 5

    Derek

    I'm not even sure how this came to be on my to-read list. Possibly the last holdover from an attempt to read all the Canadian SF writers I'd never heard of. It's seriously hampered by the fact that I'm not very fond of short stories, but "The Children of Crèche" is frighteningly believable. "The Last Day of the War, with Parrots" is thought-provoking, chilling, and somewhat depressing. "Three Hearings on the Existence of Snakes in the Human Bloodstream" is just plain brilliant - managing to skew I'm not even sure how this came to be on my to-read list. Possibly the last holdover from an attempt to read all the Canadian SF writers I'd never heard of. It's seriously hampered by the fact that I'm not very fond of short stories, but "The Children of Crèche" is frighteningly believable. "The Last Day of the War, with Parrots" is thought-provoking, chilling, and somewhat depressing. "Three Hearings on the Existence of Snakes in the Human Bloodstream" is just plain brilliant - managing to skewer religious intolerance, creationism and McCarthyism in about 10 pages. And on top of that - I realize I know the author from my university days, and too many days hanging around the WATSFIC office.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Muffin Explains Teleology to the World at Large 3/6/2006 The Children of Crèche 3/2/2006 Kent State Descending the Gravity Well: An Analysis of the Observer 3/1/2006 Withered Gold, the Night, the Day 2/24/2006 The Last Day of the War, With Parrots 2/23/2006 A Changeable Market in Slaves 2/22/2006 Reaper 2/21/2006 Lesser Figures of the Greater Trumps 2/20/2006 Shadow Album 2/19/2006 Hardware Scenario G-49 2/17/2006 The Reckoning of Gifts 2/16/2006 The Young Person's Guide to the Organism 2/15/2006 Three Hea Muffin Explains Teleology to the World at Large 3/6/2006 The Children of Crèche 3/2/2006 Kent State Descending the Gravity Well: An Analysis of the Observer 3/1/2006 Withered Gold, the Night, the Day 2/24/2006 The Last Day of the War, With Parrots 2/23/2006 A Changeable Market in Slaves 2/22/2006 Reaper 2/21/2006 Lesser Figures of the Greater Trumps 2/20/2006 Shadow Album 2/19/2006 Hardware Scenario G-49 2/17/2006 The Reckoning of Gifts 2/16/2006 The Young Person's Guide to the Organism 2/15/2006 Three Hearings on the Existence of Snakes in the Human Bloodstream 2/14/2006 Sense of Wonder

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dwagon

    Decent, but highly variable. Some of the stories were excellent. All too many, though, seemed like they were trying too hard to be clever or different. (If you like truly creative stories, maybe you will like them. But personally, I prefer to just be entertained by a good story, and don't care so much about whether they are clever from a literary perspective or creative and unique.) Overall, not as strong as his excellent League of Worlds series. Decent, but highly variable. Some of the stories were excellent. All too many, though, seemed like they were trying too hard to be clever or different. (If you like truly creative stories, maybe you will like them. But personally, I prefer to just be entertained by a good story, and don't care so much about whether they are clever from a literary perspective or creative and unique.) Overall, not as strong as his excellent League of Worlds series.

  16. 5 out of 5

    krin

    I enjoyed this collection of short stories as they made me think at times and laugh at times. I especially liked the stories "The Last Day of the War, with Parrots" in which knowing someone's thoughts isn't always a good thing; "A Changeable Market in Slaves," or, in other words, how many different ways can a story's opening go and "A Young Person's Guide to the Organism," as different people see the same creature in many different ways. I enjoyed this collection of short stories as they made me think at times and laugh at times. I especially liked the stories "The Last Day of the War, with Parrots" in which knowing someone's thoughts isn't always a good thing; "A Changeable Market in Slaves," or, in other words, how many different ways can a story's opening go and "A Young Person's Guide to the Organism," as different people see the same creature in many different ways.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Brown

    I felt that only the two short stories about the Expendable series universe were any good.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Gallan

    18/344

  19. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

    Hit or miss. Not as good as his novels.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Brandon

    Interesting set of short stories including several in the League of Peoples setting.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Marty

    Short stories, not my favorite form. Darker than I like.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Malaraa

    Mixed, like any collection. Specific story breakdown later.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Alison

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rlbrown

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kurt

  26. 5 out of 5

    Richard Hoffbeck

  27. 4 out of 5

    Anita Kilgour

  28. 4 out of 5

    Diana

  29. 4 out of 5

    Claudiapriscus

  30. 5 out of 5

    Joel

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