01/01/2009. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: Del Rey/Ballantine Books. 269 page enlarged paperback. Price: $15.00 (US), $17.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-345-50428-9.
check out websites: www.delreybooks.com and www.marusek.com
Having read one of David Marusek's short stories in an anthology a couple months ago, I was curious to see more of his work. This volume of 'Getting To Know You' stories covers most of Marusek's work to date. He admits to being a slow writer but I suspect that just conceals the time he thinks about what he writes and character development. What I did find odd is the order of the eleven stories here is not based on the order he wrote them but more to get you drawn in by his more successful work first. Hence, like me, you read 'The Wedding Album' then it serves as a reminder as to what struck you about his work. This story is more novelette in size and the deletion of stimulation files where earlier versions of yourself can debate as to where they should be allowed to repeat the events they were scanned again and again.
Marusek obviously loved the idea of this reality and a further four stories were written about this reality. 'A Boy In Cathyland' is an out-take from 'Wedding Album' treated as a separate story. One of his shortest stories here, Marusek seemed more intent in developing a Russian setting and use of foreign dialogue.
In contrast to that, 'We Were Out Of Our Minds With Joy' is about a couple being given a permit to have a baby. Not by the old-fashioned way but having their DNA by recombination. That might have been all the need of the story but when Sam, the husband, is attacked and his DNA altered, he suddenly finds himself a non-person to all the gadgetry around him. This is an old-theme but nicely realised and advances the reality where people have extended lives, clone servants and personalised belt valets to do all the caring for you.
The later comes up again in 'Cabbages And Kale Or: How We Downsized North America' which is more a prequel in the same reality where the political ramifications of long-life means birth-control to stop population growth needed to be taken effect and have general approval from Congress. The oddness about the story is many, including the Vice-President in the chair having second thoughts about being there in person as if the issue wasn't that important. What changed his mind was his stimulated proxies of himself were being faulty. Whether Marusek is implying that no reality is perfect or the quirkiness of human nature will persist whatever, it makes for an interesting story.
The anthology title shares its name with the fourth from this reality, 'Getting To Know You', and deals with the wealthy equipment tester Zoranna who has to sort out her sister, Nancy, who after a crash in the job market - who wants a teacher when there aren't any children? - get her life back together. There are certain comparisons to similar situations in current reality but this one shows Marusek's deft hand with characters.
In case you're wondering why I'm using Marusek's name so much in this review, its because of 'Yurek Rutz, Yurek Rutz, Yurek Rutz'. A humour piece where the author will get a payment from a dead man's estate every time he uses the man's name thus giving him an immortality of sorts. David Marusek, David Marusek, David Marusek, I expect to be mentioned in your will. :-)
Marusek includes a couple stories that he thinks the subject matter is distasteful but feels needs to be let out. As to whether they are is up to personal taste. Of these, 'VTV' is the one that should have the biggest resonance. A woman has been targeted for an assassination and the press are around to watch not interfere. One of the reporters gets too close to the woman and risks his job in the process.
With his introductions, Marusek gives some of the history for each story although oddly not how far he's addressing issues within them. All of the stories in this anthology will make you think. He ticks off all the boxes in writing good characters in interesting stories that should get most of you with his ideas. An author to watch for.
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Stephen Hunt's novels - USA