This is the last story in the Space Opera Renaissance. It is a surprisingly hefty tome of words, made even more so by the sheer volume crammed onto each page. Some of the ‘stories’ published herein were originally published as stand-alone novels. Some of them are almost shockingly concise while the majority fall somewhere in between. There is something that fascinates me about so many things in this book. Samuel R. Delaney very nearly reformatted my brain while Dan Simmons kept me reading far longer than I had intended. Space Opera includes bits of many subgenres but its title really says it all. This is opera in space. It is big and filled with emotions that run raw and heavy. But it is not without the ‘important’ parts. It has heart and allegory and when written by the right people it is beautiful.
If you are going to end a giant book of Space Opera stories (which one would assume you must eventually do, no matter the size) then John C. Wright is probably a good author to end with. He’s extraordinarily modern in his thinking and clings tightly to the old Texas belief that if a thing is worth doing it is worth doing really big (though as far as I know he is not from Texas). He has been a lawyer and a newspaperman and editor before turning to writing epic style science fiction. Recently he converted from atheism to Catholicism.
“Guest Law” is everything you might expect in a Space Opera and even some things you might expect in a fantasy. It was a little too predictable, but it might have been intended as such. As an example of what Space Opera is today, or at least in 2006 when the book was published, it is superb. As a story that shows what is possible in the genre it is mediocre.
In Summary: Samuel R. Delaney’s “Empire Star” is the most fascinating single piece of short fiction I have ever read and probably the most poignant treatise about slavery and its ‘justifications’ that exists — as well as some of the best time travel I’ve seen. There are other stories, like Alan Steele’s “The Death of Captain Future” or Donald Kingsbury’s “The Survivor” that make you examine who you are and what really drives you. Others are just fun to read like Dan Simmons and Lois MacMaster Bujold and Peter F. Hamilton. As a whole this book has been a great experience and taught me some valuable lessons.