Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Saint Martin's Press Inc.; 1st Orb Trade Pbk. Ed edition (30 Aug 2002)
Vinge is not the most prolific writer out there. He's had maybe a double handful of novels published, and some shorter fiction over the years. But what he has published is usually worth reading.
Here, then, is his collected short fiction. Well, most of it - as Edward James pointed out to me when he saw me with this book - this is missing True Names and also Grimm's World. The latter expanded to become the novel Tatja Grimm's World, so there's a justification for it to be missing here, but if you want True Names, you will have to go elsewhere.
What's here is mostly pretty good. The Accomplice is somewhat weak, and Vinge has held it back from collections before now, and 'Bookworm, Run' is obviously an early work which wouldn't work these days. A couple make use of his Peace War future line, including The Ungoverned, which makes a case for an anarchistic setup where the 'right to bear arms' has ended up with a re-convergence such that one-man militias exist that wield nuclear weapons. As a paen to unrestricted libertarianism, it strikes me as somewhat of a dystopia. This anti-governmental theme continues with Conquest by Default, wherein the only way the remnants of the human race are permitted to survive is by the abolition of all forms of association above that of a few thousand, on pain of extermination. It's interesting to note that in this story Vinge concedes that cities are going to be infeasible, and that the majority of the human race would have to be wiped out for such a system to work.
But, even if I'm disagreeing with his politics, Vinge's stories have startling ideas running through them. We see here, in Barbarian Princess, Tatja Grimm encounter with a world-circling floating magazine house. In The Blabber, we have a side sliver of A Fire Upon the Deep. Finally, in Fast Times at Fairmont High, we see a bit of the same world as Rainbows End, one in which education has become something wildly beyond what we see today.