THE CUCKOO'S BOYS by Robert Reed. Urbana, IL; Golden Gryphon Press; 2005. 1st edition hardcover.
"[Robert] Reed may be one of the most prolific of today's young writers . . . [his] stories . . . count as among some of the best short work produced by anyone in the '80s and '90s. . . ." Thus wrote editor Gardner Dozois in his Year's Best Science Fiction anthology series. Reed's second collection from Golden Gryphon Press, The Cuckoo's Boys, gathers twelve of the best stories from his prolific short fiction output of the past decade and into this, the twenty-first century.
In the near-future title story, a lonely genius clones himself — not once, but millions of times — by creating a virus that affects pregnant women. Throughout the world, women give birth to baby boys with the genetics of Phillip Stevens. Then a few years later, a man with a mysterious past becomes the teacher to three of these clones — and as their teacher, he tests and challenges them. Are these boys little more than genetic copies of Stevens? Or are they individuals in their own right, with unique personalities and coming-of-age problems?
Advances in virtual technology allow the president of the United States to visit every household of the nation's electorate simultaneously on the "First Tuesday" of each month, and he even stays for dinner.
In "Abducted Souls," published here for the first time, a young college student discovers that he has defined himself by his alien abduction as a young child. When that abduction comes into question, he begins to question his own reality and self-worth.
Also included in this new collection are two stories from Robert Reed's well-regarded "Marrow" universe: "River of the Queen" centers on Quee Lee and Perri, immortal beings enjoying a half-million-year voyage around the galaxy in the Great Ship, a starship larger than most worlds. In this story, the Queen of the title is kidnapped (or is she?) and Perri assists in the investigation (or does he?) to locate the Queen and her captors. And in "Night of Time," an ageless human named Ash meets two aliens, one a servant of the other, who prove to be even older — and stranger — than him, as he strives to help each of them recover lost memories.
From the sardonic "On the Brink of That Bright New World" (a laborer uses aliens' first contact to cover up a crime of passion) to the intense "Savior" (a military commander is held accountable for tortuous acts that may have saved the human race) to the surreal "Coelacanths" (four unique, yet interlinked, perspectives of post-humanity), this collection exemplifies Library Journal's assertion that Reed's stories evoke "visionary futures and scientific speculation."
With a nearly 6,000-word Afterword by the author that details the genesis of each story.
Cover art by Edward Miller.
Fine in fine dj.