Ray Gun Reviews
SF/F reviews — and ray guns!

Keeper of Dreams by Orson Scott Card

(Note: This review originally appeared in Ray Gun Revival 46, Sept 2008)

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Keeper of Dreams by Orson Scott Card
Tor Books, 2008, 656pp

It somehow seems appropriate to be starting RGR’s column of opinion with Orson Scott Card. First, OSC is a justly praised author of science fiction (as well as fantasy), having won not only both the Nebula and Hugo awards multiple times but numerous other awards. Second, he’s known for being opinionated. Just wander over to his column at hatrack.com as well as his opinion pieces at ornery.org and you’ll see that there is hardly a topic that OSC hasn’t pontificated about at some point or other. Who better to start off with?

It’s been approximately 20 years since the first massive Orson Scott Card short story collection, Maps in a Mirror. (Yes, I know it wasn’t his first collection, but it was his first massive collection.) As he points out in the introduction, his focus in the nearly two decades since putting out Maps in a Mirror has been on novels (with approximately 30 having come out in that time), yet somehow he still managed to write enough short stories to fill up another enormous collection.

Keeper of Dreams is divided up into five sections, corresponding to the five broad areas of the stories included: science fiction, fantasy, literary, Hatrack River (based on his long-running Alvin Prentice series), and Mormon stories. These stories—twenty-two, all told—have all appeared elsewhere (with one exception), with a large majority of them originally appearing in short-story anthologies. The science fiction section contains six stories, all excellent. Most noteworthy of these is the exception I mentioned above: “Geriatric Ward” was written for Harlan Ellison’s infamous Last Dangerous Visions, which never got far enough along to get published. OSC is finally publishing it here. The other SF stories are the eerie “The Elephants of Poznan,” the Pastwatch story “Atlantis,” “Heal Thyself,” “Space Boy,” and “Angles.”

The non-SF stories are, of course, also wonderful reads, and the whole book is definitely worth tracking down and reading. OSC has an incredible gift for bringing his characters to life, so much so that, when I finish one of his novels, I’m exhausted by having just lived someone else’s life for awhile. With the short stories, you get the same effect, but because they’re so much shorter you don’t feel as worn out and can move on to the next one with ease: highly recommended.

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