A THOUSAND DEATHS by George Alec Effinger, cover art by John Picacio. Urbana, IL; Golden Gryphon Press; 2007. 1st edition hardcover.
In "The Wolves of Memory," the novel that opens this remarkable collection, author George Alec Effinger gives us a rather bleak future where Earth's governing body, the "Representatives," have relinquished control to computers that have grown increasingly more intelligent and more self-aware. TECT, the central computer, assigns three consecutive jobs to our bright but hapless hero, Sandor Courane — jobs for which he lacks the necessary skills. Courane is simply trying to live his life, but in this world simply living requires an adherence to every one of TECT's directives. Sandor consequently fails as a basketball player, a science fiction writer, and finally an assembly-line worker. Three strikes and, according to TECT, you're out! Courane is now a social misfit and as his punishment is exiled to Planet D, which its residents of course call "Home."
At first, Planet D seems to be the idyllic world Sandor has unconsciously been seeking his entire life. He works the farm, tills the field, puts in a hard day's work, and thus contributes with pride to the well-being of the entire Home community. He ends each day exhausted, but with a warm feeling of self-satisfaction, something he never felt on Earth. He even finds love.
Eventually, though, Sandor realizes that everyone who comes to Planet D succumbs to an insidious, debilitating disease whose main symptom is a progressive loss of memory. Is TECT sending the infected to Planet D to remove them from Earth society? Or are healthy people catching the disease once they reach Planet D? Unfortunately, the only one who knows — and the only one with whom Home's denizens may communicate — is TECT itself, and TECT provides only the information it wants them to have. Sandor must embark on a one-man campaign to elicit from TECT the information needed for a cure. He keeps a journal of his thoughts and findings in the hope that others who will follow can build on the little he has learned. The only thing Sandor knows for sure is that he has very little time remaining — for he, too, is already experiencing lapses of memory.
In “The Wolves of Memory,” as with all of his best-known fiction, George Alec Effinger has written a powerful, poignant yet sardonic story — in this instance, a portrait of Everyman's pain and absolution as he faces The Machine.
In addition to "Wolves," this collection offers seven other stories for Sandor Courane fans. Courane, one of the author's alter egos, is a character who routinely faces death in one form or another and by doing so gives life meaning for us all.
A Thousand Deaths features as well a celebrant introduction by multiple-Hugo-Award-winning author Mike Resnick; a rich, appreciative afterword by Andrew Fox (one of Effinger's former writing students and now an author in his own right); and full-color, wraparound cover art by Chesley Award-winning artist John Picacio.
"A heartfelt homage to the late (and largely underappreciated) SF author Effinger (1947–2002), this intimate collection of stories revolving around his literary alter ego, hapless genre writer and editor Sandor Courane, offers a poignant glimpse into the author’s psyche. . . . A touching afterword by Andrew Fox as well as visually stunning cover art by John Picacio make this bittersweet collection one to be cherished."
"Beyond whimsy in the service of brutal insight, Effinger was a technical whiz, perhaps the Kornbluth of late 20th-century SF."
— Damien Broderick, Locus, April 2005.
"Curse whatever gods you believe in for taking George Alec Effinger from us far too soon. And curse them if you will for making him suffer for most of his life in pain far more severe than you want to even imagine. He deserved better, much better, as he was without doubt one of the most brilliant writers that ever graced our presence."
— Cat Eldridge, The Green Man Review.
Fine in fine dj.