I grew up with Secrets of Stardeep, a moving SF juvenile about a boy’s quest to redeem his father’s reputation. I still think it’s a great book. Eventually, I picked up other mid and full length work by Jakes – On Wheels, The Planet Wizard, The Asylum World – realizing along the way that he was much more famous for his historical fiction (which I haven’t read).
Whether The Best of John Jakes really captures his best SFF, I can’t say, but there are certainly some stories here that captured my imagination, and one or two that stayed firmly in my head for years. Others are more of their time (50s and 60s) or straightforward applications of moderately interesting concept. If you’re a fan of Jakes for other reasons, it’s worth picking up. The best stories:
- “The Sellers of the Dream” – a dystopian future of commercialization and spies, this one had some images that stuck firmly in my head, though the background faded out a bit.
- “One Race Show” – an art dealer searches out a unique, troubling painter. While the concept at the heart of this is familiar, Jakes does a good job of bringing emotion and drama to it in a new way.
- “There’s No Vinism Like Chauvinism” – war is both commercial and fake, until someone goes too far. Here, Jakes might have done better to expand this into a full novel or novella; the concept feels underexplored and a bit rushed as he focuses on the relationship at the heart of the story.
Interesting, if not always captivating.