Beyond The Safe Zone
A Book Review, By Earl S. Wynn
I picked this little gem up at my favorite bookstore when it went out of business. *sniff* All that aside, I have to say that I haven't read anything quite like this before. It was wierd, but in a good way, which made it really interesting, though most of it was about as solid and real-feeling as a hypnotically-induced acid trip.
Robert Silverberg's Beyond the Safe Zone is a collection of "twenty-three fictional journeys into possible futures" which was published in 1968 and weighs in at a whopping 565 pages, out of which only about fifteen pages are dedicated to the story "What we learned from this morning's newspaper" which was totally unreadable for it's utter and complete lack of critical punctuation. (The sentences go like this they keep going and the guy talks about hey a bird and stuff why are you reading this story etc haha...) That isn't bad, considering every other story is pretty good. The decidedly Hebrew slant to many of the stories was cool, different, and kind of enlightening-- I've never seen that approach to Sci-Fi before, and I got a kick out of it. If any of the stories fall into my "favorites" category, it would probably be "The Dybbuk of Mazel Tov IV", which brings ancient Hasidic mythology about spiritual possession to the stars, though "Ship-Sister, Star-Sister" takes a close second with it's very "borg" network of stars that think and psychically network the whole of humanity into one big central consciousness...
Yeah, I know, it all sounds really weird, but trust me, it's worth a read. Take it a story at a time, put the book on the shelf, come back to it to read another story, and make your way through it at a leisurely pace. If you leap right in and power through, it might just warp your brain...
Reading through this book, there were really only two things that made me skip big sections (which I do so rarely I could count the number of times I've done it before on one hand) and the first was the flow. So many of Silverberg's stories are about trance-like states, dreams, and really amorphous and strange ways of looking at the world. They suck you in and incorporate you firmly into them in a way that's (as a writer) kind of enviable, but also (as a reader) really uncomfortable. You come out of reading some of the stories feeling like there's nothing but a mass of gray fog between your ears, and no amount of blinking or anything can dispell it. Heck, I'm going to have to read something much more concrete now so I can pull my head out of it!
The other big thing that made me wonder about this book (and it's author) was the perverse sexual way he paints things. When practically every story features a "full bodied woman with high, hard breasts" that always has an excuse to get naked and ride someone, you start to wonder what's going on. And the incest! Oh yeah, if it's perverse, you'll probably find it in this book. They say that sex sells, but in this case, all it did was make a bunch of pretty-good sci-fi slightly seedy.
All in all, I give this book a marginal three stars. Man it's hard to rate this book. It was good in alot of ways, but in an equal number of ways, it was a real bear. I'd still pick it up if you're interested in some really really different Sci-Fi.