LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program for several years now. Most of the time, I choose books from authors or publishers whose names I recognize, but once in a while, I select a book that is totally new to me. Frequently, I've ended up disappointed but the odd time that I hit upon a real gem, it's a great feeling.
Recently, I won North by 2000+, a collection of science-fiction stories originally published over several decades by author H. A. Hargreaves. Given how much I enjoy both sci-fi and Canadian literature, I really ought to have heard of Hargreaves before now, but his output has been relatively small compared to other better-known sci-fi writers. An earlier version of this collection, entitled North by 2000, had been published in 1975, and this new anthology, containing 5 additional stories and an introduction and afterword by Robert Runte, was recently released by a small independent publisher, Five Rivers Publishing.
I enjoyed the stories very much, particularly "Dead to the World", "Cainn", "Tee Vee Man" and "More Things in Heaven and Earth". Alhough these stories were written many years ago and there are some discrepancies between the future as Hargreaves had envisioned it and the reality as it is today, the stories do not feel dated. It is Hargreaves's exploration of human relationships, to one another and to the environment, in an imagined setting that makes the stories memorable. I also found Runte's commentary on "Canadian science-fiction" and how it differs from that of the British and American tradition thought-provoking.
Having experienced hits and misses with small publishers, I was genuinely surprised by the quality of the writing. I recently finished all the short stories and novelettes nominated for this year's Hugo awards, and certainly, Hargreaves's stories would not suffer in comparison. I'm glad that Five Rivers Publishing has chosen to reprint his work, as it deserves a wider audience.