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Escape From Kathmandu by Kim Stanley Robinson
A fairly amusing collection featuring early works by a top-notch author.
Pages: 314 (Paperback)
I stumbled across Kathmandu in a used bookstore while looking for a copy of Gödel, Escher, Bach (which I didn't find). Being a fan of KSR, I grabbed it and read it immediately. It's decent and cute, but it shows its standing as one of his earlier works. Kathmandu is a collection of short stories inspired by Robinson's travel experiences in Nepal, much as the later Antarctica was inspired by his visit to McMurdo Station. The stories all feature protagonists George Fergusson and "Freds" Fredericks on a variety of fantastic adventures throughout the Himalayan region, conveniently returning to their favorite haunts (the Hotel Star) in Kathmandu. It's a light read and tries to be humorous, but to me the humor felt thin and awkward. There is a great helping of expatriate cynicism thrown in, presumably cultivated from the long list of notables in the book's acknowledgments.
I'm not going to talk too much about the individual stories, "Escape from Kathmandu", "Mother Goddess of the World", "The True Nature of Shangri-La" and "The Kingdom Underground", because they're really probably better when read afresh with no hint in your mind. The book-titling "Escape from Kathmandu" was nominated for both the Nebula and Hugo awards, but it didn't stand out in my mind any more than the others. This book probably isn't for everyone, but if you're a serious KSR fan or collector, you'll want to collect and read this. You can find it relatively cheaply in one of its many printings. In the end, my take on it is it's a bit light, dated and juvenile for KSR.