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Blue Apes

Blue Apes - Phyllis Gotlieb I picked up this book after reading Gotlieb's novel 'Flesh and Gold' and being VERY favorably impressed with it. This is a collection of some of her short fiction.
It is, again, VERY impressive.
This book has the notable distinction of being the VERY FIRST book I have read from a small press that I would say is absolutely excellent. Kudos to Tesseract books.
Looking them yup, I notice that another severly underestimated Canadian sf author is involved with the imprint - Candas Jane Dorsey. What is up with the US not pushing excellent authors from Canada, anyway? Another who comes immediately to mind is Pauline Gedge - her books are amazing, but just try finding them in the US!
I dunno. It's certainly not the case w/ Margaret Atwood, and I'm sure there are other exceptions!

Anyway, the stories are:

"Among You," an excellent, powerful story that reminded me (can't really say exactly why) of Theodore Sturgeon. The main character is an alien shapeshifter - but one who knows nothing of his past or culture - a ship full of infants of his kind landed on Earth, and they have been raised here, semi-intergrated into our culture, but still alone and lonely. The individual here works using his shape-changing ability as a therapist - helping humans, but who is there to help him?

"Tauf Aleph". Also an impressively excellent story. On an alien planet, the last Jew alive petitions GalFed to send someone to perform his last rites so he can die in peace. But there is no one qualified. Finally, GalFed programs an outdated robot with knowledge of Judaica and sends the robot. The Jew does not find the robot acceptable - but it does become a help when the man finds himself protecting and caring for a group of aliens - whom he finds repulsive, but feels compassion toward as well. Against his will, these aliens look to him as their spiritual leader, and wish to become Jews themselves... very moving - but the last line totally rescues it from sappiness! Amazing.

"The Other Eye" Short, painful but good story of a drudge working in an alien society. She goes blind in one eye - but that eye sees visions (or hallucinations?) of another, better life... but her society does not look kindly upon such aberrations.

"Mother Lode" More of a space-adventure, dealing with humans and other sentients who live and work within the bodies of giant tunneling worms. But schedules are off, things are becoming odd, the worms may be becoming hostile. A GalFed investigator has been sent to see what might be happening.

"The Military Hospital" Not my favorite piece here, but still good. More of a study in an ambiance rather than a plot-driven work, it deals with the temporary director of an automated hospital dealing with wounded veterans in a dystopic, chaotic, violent future.

"Body English" very short piece, again more ambiance than plot, giving us people who, for money, let the elderly and ill mentally "switch bodies" for brief amounts of time, letting them experience youth and health - while they in turn bear the excruciating, exhausting pain.

"Monkey Wrench". A mystery-in-space. A wealthy-but-ugly man on a small space station is found dead, and his young wife is missing. When crew from a nearby station come to investigate, they find a maze of clues in the computer, showing a web of mystery and insanity - and one of their team seems to know too much as well. Entertaining, and a well-done mesh of two genres.

"Sunday's Child". On a future earth, the climate is cold and life is harsh. Ominous aliens vaguely threaten humanity's feeble grasp on the earth. and now, in a small, Eskimo-like community, an amnesiac woman is mysteriously pregnant.... And most of the people start feeling an unexplained urge to leave...

"We Can't Go On Meeting Like This". Another short-short story, again on the theme of using technology to achieve mental transfer. Here, lovers avoid 'adultery' by paying to enter the minds and bodies of zoo animals.

"The Newest Profession". another emotionally rough story - extremely well-done. Here, women with few options are paid by a corporation to incubate and give birth to genetically altered, animal-like children, to be used experimentally with the aim of colonizing foreign planets with workers adapted for alien environments.
The plot centers around one woman's legal defense of another, who dies in the course of this work - but the real center of the story is the situation, and the bigotry against and oppression of these women...

"Blue Apes". The final, title, story deals with a GalFed investigator who goes to see what has become of of a failing space colony. The former investigator was killed, and he is the last hope. He finds a degenerate group of mentally-disabled adults, cared for by their bright, normal children - who know that they in turn will become like their parents.
But can he give these children hope - or simply a more terrible revelation?
It reminded me of that Star Trek episode where all the adults die of a disease - and the children are equally precocious and dangerous - but this is done with much more depth and emotion...

Excellent, excellent anthology. I'm upgrading Gotlieb to absolutely one of my favorite authors! Already ordered more of her stuff... of which there's actually a lot.