Unconquered Countries, Geoff Ryman

Unconquered Countries, Geoff Ryman, St. Martin's, 1994, ISBN 0-312-09929-0, $20.95, 275 pp.

Unconquered Countries, Geoff Ryman, St. Martin’s, 1994, ISBN 0-312-09929-0, $20.95, 275 pp.

I read this earlier in the summer, and I have to admit to having forgotten most about the stories here, but I remember being vaguely disappointed after finishing the collection. I like Ryman a lot–his The Child Garden is one of my favorite novels, and I thought that both Was and 253 were very good. Maybe I just like him at longer lengths?

  • “A Fall of Angels” — Too much science, not enough story. That was my impression, wanting more of what was going on to be explained in a non-mathematical way. This story seemed to lack that sense of wonder–almost lifeless. It has some interesting concepts, but it is too busy to congeal into a pleasing tale.
  • “Fan” — This was my favorite of the collection, a neat look at an obsessive fan of a new pop star, and what happens when you “meet” the object of your dreams. It really examines the relationship between the “star” and the “fan.” It is a rich vein of inquiry, and Ryman taps the jugular here. Both surprising and illuminating, it also holds your attention throughout, even though the protagonist is not very appealing.
  • “O Happy Day!” — A “what if” story about a horrible set of circumstances existing between men and women, and a repeat of the horrors of the mid-20th century. The situation looks grim, but only if we forget to be human. A well done bit of cautionary tale. Enjoyable!
  • “The Unconquered Country” — An award-winner, but it has never done that much for me. Overly subtle?

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