In nineteen ventures into the future, Mark Rich moves from a moving moment during human-alien contact, in "Across the Sky" ... to madcap conflict between Human and Vegetable, in the antic "Foggery" ... to a vision of life in Venusian orbit, in "The Apples of Venus" — the story SF giant Robert Silverberg called "science fiction in the classic mode, a contemporary version of the sort of work that makes old-timers speak with warm nostalgia of John W. Campbell's famous magazine Astounding Science Fiction of fifty years ago.
"Rich turns out new wrinkles on common genre themes in this eloquent debut collection. There's some entertaining satire—such as "The Real Thing,' where 'cash' is a dirty word and clones are sent out as dating surrogates—but more impressive are the ruminations on human-alien connection. In the particularly notable 'Forever Down the Ringing Grooves,' astronaut and diplomat Jack Lackstrum rushes jealously back to Earth after the alien Transtellars ignore his welcome signals and begin communicating directly with anyone they meet, but he finds first contact is nothing like he imagined. This diverse collection also includes 'Smoking Gun,' a well-constructed and clever SF mystery, and plausible political struggles over the future of humanity's space ventures in 'Impossible Alone' and 'The Never-Winner.' Readers who enjoy old-fashioned SF will appreciate these short, straightforward tales." —Publisher's Weekly
"Rich’s stories—gathered from Analog, Asimov’s, and elsewhere—range from the thoughtful and serious to completely off the wall. The collection opens, in 'Across the Sky,' with the conversation that might transform the relationship between humans and the alien Stooka, and concludes, in 'The Apples of Venus,' with an extraordinary vision of seeding Venus with life and the politics surrounding humans who’ve lived their whole lives in low-gravity environments vis-à-vis earthbound humans. In 'Overdue,' in which human lives are checked out like library books by some mysterious other, Rich muses on memories of libraries. The collection also includes several pieces of poetry, miniature musings on the same kinds of themes Rich approaches in the stories. As is often the case, introductory notes constitute a welcome addition and provide a bit of insight into the author’s attitudes and inspirations for each piece." —Booklist
"Science Fiction comes in many flavors. Across the Sky is a collection of short science fiction from Mark Rich, who gives a great variety of tone and topic in his anthology. Ranging from the troubles with evolution when it comes to vegetables, contact with alien races, and life when orbiting other planets, Across the Sky is filled with a story for every sci-fi fan." —The Midwest Book Review
Critical Mass Don D'Ammassa
"Mark Rich is another of those writers whose name I recognized but whose work I’ve read over such an extended period of time that I had no strong image of him as a writer. This collection helped to bring those wandering memories together. There are almost twenty stories here, most of which I’d read previously and several of which I remembered when I read them again. There is a strong component of harder science fiction than with many of his contemporaries, and aliens, other worlds, space travel, and other familiar devices are common here. There’s even a touch of humor. Among my favorites were 'The Apples of Venus,' 'Staying the Course,' 'The Smoking Gun,' and the title story. Rich is a writer in the more traditional vein of SF, with strong story telling talents and a pervading sense of the wonder of the universe." —Don D'Ammassa, Critical Mass
"Mark Rich's stories have a warmth and depth of spirit—human and otherwise—that is uncommon in science fiction today. I enjoyed Across the Sky." —Allen Steele, author of Coyote
"Great stories play like movies in your head. Scenes and characters from Mark Rich's stories will stay with you long after the lights come up." —Steven L. Burns, author of Flesh and Silver