Reviews of Her Smoke Rose Up Forever (2004)
Review by clong (2006-01-24)
This is a superb collection, eighteen of Tiptree/Sheldon’s finest short stories and novellas. The collection does not make for easy reading. Powerful, moving, and thought provoking, but not easy. As opposed to Up the Walls of the World, which I found to be a fundamentally optimistic work, most of these stories offer a very dark view of humanity and our destiny.
The collection runs from some of her earliest published work to some of her final published work, and in some ways you can see her mature as a writer as the stories progress. But even the earliest of the stories, “The Last Flight of Dr. Ain” (which by the way clearly must have been an influence on the script for the movie Twelve Monkeys) demonstrates a remarkable ability to establish an emotional connection to the reader in just a few short pages.
Most of the stories deal with gender issues either directly, or implicitly. With a few exceptions, men are pigs. For the most part, the characters in these stories are doomed by some combination of genetic coding and/or the crushing environment in which they try to survive. There is a fair amount of sex, some of which is fairly brutal. But there is nothing voyeuristic about these scenes. As reader, you feel the pain and trauma and violation of the victim.
My favorites were “The Last Flight of Doctor Ain,” “The Girl Who Was Plugged In,” “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?,” “We Who Stole the Dream,” and “Her Smoke Rose Up Forever.”