Fiction, Science Fiction; ISBN 0-671-57857-X; Baen, New York: 2000.
This is an anthology of hard science fiction (sf) stories. Hard science fiction is defined in Wikipedia as "characterized by an emphasis on scientific or technical detail, or on scientific accuracy, or on both". Charles Sheffield's definition of what isn't hard sf is better: "if you take the science and scientific speculation away from a story, and not do it serious injury, then it was not hard sf to begin with". What I like about this definition are two things - first is the stressing of the importance of the scientific mumbo-jumbo in the story, and second is that it isn't all truly grounded to reality, it may even be all just speculation, but the important thing is that it is believable and consistent to the current scientific knowledge of that time.
The book is a compilation of (mis)adventures of a physicist, Arthur Morton McAndrew and his long-suffering companion, the spaceship captain Jeanie Roker. If that sounds fun, I assure you that it is, unless you're a novice hard sf fan (I'm not even talking about those who aren't sf reader). Even the author (a true-to-life mathematician and physicist) had unapologetically stated in the Appendix that the stories the hardest sf that he had ever wrote. That is what makes the book both appealing and unappealing; people would either like it or hate it - no fence sitting.
I liked the stories but I have to admit that it has flaws. Hard sf books may ground themselves to real science, but they are still work of fictions - hence they still need to appeal to readers. I think Sheffield knows this, which is why his better stories are his later ones (they were written when he had quit his scientific profession and wholeheartedly became a writer); unfortunately, this realization had been a bit too late. I also noticed that he was often deliberately ambiguous and obfuscating, which I did not like, considering there are other sf authors that didn't need to trick the reader to force them to his viewpoint.
Finally, although his scientific grounding may be neat, some of his story development were illogical and a few characterization illogical - perhaps so that his characters will do or be in a more fantastic (hence interesting) position in otherwise boring and mostly procedural stories.
But still, all in all, I did like them, even if they are not representative of the hard sf genre. I give the book 3 out of 5 stars.