Identity Theft and Other Stories.


288 pages
ISBN 978-0-88995-412-0
DDC C813'.54





Reviewed by Douglas Barbour

Douglas Barbour is a professor of English at the University of Alberta.
He is the author of Lyric/anti-lyric : Essays on Contemporary Poetry,
Breath Takes, and Fragmenting Body Etc.


As Canada’s leading science fiction writer, Robert J. Sawyer delivers the goods in his second collection of short fiction, Identity Theft and Other Stories. Sawyer is an idea man, and although he feels more at home in novels, short stories are ideal for the kind of problem-solving games he plays. The title story of his collection demonstrates his strengths, while his weaknesses, mainly a fairly conventional form of characterization, do not show themselves too much in the shorter form.


Most of the stories in Identity Theft were written upon request for themed anthologies, and all demonstrate Sawyer’s delight in writing to a given design while finding a way to play off the original intent. “Identity Theft” appeared in Down These Dark Spaceways, which asked for hard-boiled detective stories set in future worlds. Sawyer sets his story in the only domed city on Mars, where people who have struck it rich can download their “selves” into immortal robot bodies. Our detective, the only one in the city, must solve the disappearance, then murder, of one of these figures. Sawyer does it all correctly, and the story moves quickly through all the usual conventions to its rational climax.


Other stories include an homage to H.G. Wells, a story based on a Janis Ian song, a Christian-priest-on-Mars story, an alien-civilization-judging-Earth’s-civilization story, and many others. In each case, he provides a thoughtful, analytical context within the narratives—ideas worth considering about the ways technology and science may change our relationship to the world. He also provides introduction to each story, something of a given in SF collections, but which on the whole tend to come across as self-serving and unnecessary.


All in all, Identity Theft is a solid introduction to Robert J. Sawyer’s work, and a good example of hard science SF by a contemporary inheritor of Isaac Asimov happy to follow in the good doctor’s footsteps.


Sawyer, Robert J., “Identity Theft and Other Stories.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 26, 2024,