Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Science Fiction: Best Of Gregory Benford

(Drivebycuriosity) - I enjoy science fiction because the authors deal with the question "what if": What could happen if we meet aliens, if we create artificial intelligence (AI), if we travel back in time and so on? The American writer Gregory Benford belongs to my favorite authors.  I have reread his novel "In the Ocean of the Night" many times (driveby).

Benford writes hard science fiction in the tradition of Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke and mingles fascinating tales with sciences like physics, logic, evolution, biology, chemistry & information technology. The logical, analytical and scientific style of his novels & short stories shows that the author also has a career as astrophysicist on the faculty of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of California, Irvine (wikipedia).

I just finished reading the short story collection "Best of Gregory Benford", edited by the late David Hartford (amazon). The anthology again proves Benford´s outstanding talents as a story teller & science interpreter. The content - 38 stories - is sorted in a chronological order. So you also can observe the evolution of a remarkable science fiction writer. The collection covers a spectrum of sub-genres like space opera, first alien contact, time travel, wormholes,  genetic engineering, bio-terrorism, artificial intelligence (AI) and many more. Some of the stories are almost autobiographical and allow the reader a glance into the world of astrophysicists. I got entertained and learned a lot.

Benford created strange & exotic worlds based on logic and evolution. The fiction he writes "makes one think forward" he explained in his afterword. He devices "thought experiments beyond the real and into the possible". But he not only writes as a scientist, he also has a taste for language and literary ambitions. A visit of India starts with "the ripe, fleshy aroma of a continent enfolded him, swarming up his nostrils and soaking his lungs with sullen spice". Contrary to the usually prudish genre - often written for young adults - his stories also have some well expressed erotic parts.

                                          Thought Experiments

There are a lot stories I plan to reread sometimes, especially the novella "Matters End" (1989), set in a near future India and combines quantum physics with philosophy; "A Desperate Calculus" (1995) a near future thriller set in the tropics about environmentalists; "A Dance to strange Music" (1998) scientists are exploring a strange planet, lots of plausible physics, chemistry & evolution science.

I also love "In Alien Flesh" (1978) a strange adventure story based on evolution;  "Redeemer" (1979) about dangerous jobs on a space ship; "Dark Sanctuary" (1979) & "Backscatter" (2013)  thrillers set on the asteroid belt; "Exposure" (1981), "Anomalies" (2001) & "Bow Shock" (2006) almost autobiographical stories about astrophysicists making a discoveries.

The anthology is one of the best books of the whole genre and highly recommend for anyone who is interested in science fiction.

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