Contains "The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi" by Pat Cadigan, which won the Hugo Award for Best Novelette (2013) and the Locus Award for SF Best Novelette (2013).
"One giant leap for mankind". Those were Neil Armstrong's immortal words when he became the first human being to step onto another world. All at once, the horizon expanded; the human race was no longer Earthbound.
Our destiny would now be to reach out to eternity. Brought to you by the creators of Engineering Infinity, Edge of Infinity is an exhilarating new SF anthology that looks at the next giant leap for humankind: the leap from our home world out into the Solar System. From the eerie transformations in Pat Cadigan's The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi to the frontier spirit of Sandra McDonald and Stephen D. Covey's The Road to NPS, and from the grandiose vision of Alastair Reynolds' Vainglory to the workaday familiarity of Kristine Kathryn Rusch's Safety Tests, the thirteen stories in this anthology span the whole of the human condition in their race to colonise Earth's nearest neighbours.
CONTENT "The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi" by Pat Cadigan "The Deeps of the Sky" by Elizabeth Bear "Drive" by James S. A. Corey "The Road to NPS" by Sandra McDonald and Stephen D. Covey "Swift as a Dream and Fleeting as a Sigh" by John Barnes "Macy Minnot’s Last Christmas on Dione, Ring Racing, Fiddler’s Green, the Potter’s Garden" by Paul McAuley "Safety Tests" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch "Bricks, Sticks, Straw" by Gwyneth Jones "Tyche and the Ants" by Hannu Rajaniemi "Obelisk" by Stephen Baxter "Vainglory" by Alastair Reynolds "Water Rights" by An Owomoyela "The Peak of Eternal Light" by Bruce Sterling
The Infinity Project had a good first book, but I'm really impressed by book 2 - really, the only reason the 4.5 stars is rounded down is because I'm trying to be more strict with my five star reviews (enthusiasm just gets the better of me).
But there's plenty to be excited by here! The theme of this facet of Infinity is man's first steps into the solar system - and we get some great takes on it. James S.A. Corey contributed a prequel story from his Expanse series, and it's clear that this is his natural territory. Elizabeth Bear flips the concept on its head and does it with aplomb. Swift as a Dream and Fleeting as a Sigh, by John Barnes, played with themes of control and free will and absolutely blew my mind (let me down a bit in the end, but there is only so much that fits into a short format).
But my absolute favourites were Safety Tests, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and "Macy Minnot's Last Christmas on Dione, Ring Racing, Fiddler's Green, The Potter's Garden" by Paul McAuley - what a title, but a fantastic story. Safety Tests may have had the benefit of personal bias - my father's a pilot - but even if I can't put that aside I'm tempted to just call it objectively good. Macy Minnot (etc) is a complete tonal difference, but the imagery of the communities and the tonal glass artwork were so beautiful.
All in all a very good collection, with a few spikes into great - and with a relatively low number of stories, that pulls the average very high.
An anthology of stories that I bought, and read, pretty much on the basis of the James S.A. Corey story, Drive. I'm loving Corey's Expanse series but I'm reading them faster than he's writing them, so the opportunity to pick up another one of his prequel short-stories (with a bunch of other authors that I hadn't read before) was too good to miss. The third story in the book, Drive is a human-interest story revolving around the relationship between Solomon Epstein (yes, that Solomon Epstein) and his partner, Caitlin Esquibel. Epstein is the inventor of the Epstein drive – a frequently mentioned technology in the novels and the key to the colonisation of the Asteroid Belt. Then the story of his relationship is played out through a series of flashbacks as he tries to avoid his new engine crushing him into his seat on it's first test flight. At no point did this story disappoint, almost worth the price of the entire paperback.
The rest of the stories are all centred around a similar theme: man's early steps into the Solar System. Each story tackles the idea in a slightly different way, and as with any anthology, I found some more successful than others. But, it's a rare collection where the disappointing stories are so heavily outweighed by the fantastic ones, and even some of the disappointing ones maybe are only so by comparison. There should be at least one story in here for everyone.
Pat Cadigan's The Girl-Thing Who Went Out For Sushi is a witty and clever story of humans having to change to adapt to a new off-world environment. They can elect to undergo radical surgery to match them to the role they have chosen. The new humans are referred to as Sushi, the old as bipeds. Having had the surgery, are they still human? The interesting take here is that the Sushi don't seem to think of themselves as the same any more. The only complaint here is a determined effort by the author to use 'futuristic' terminology for time which kept distracting me as I tried to translate.
Elizabeth Bear's The Deeps of the Sky doesn't feel like it even fits the theme for a long time. It's weird, but it's worth sticking with. A clan of aliens are mining their gas planet in order to buy mating rights with their queen, when they encounter a strange, water-based, species that is just starting to explore other worlds. The brief is met, but looking in from the outside.
Sandra McDonald's and Stephen D. Covey's The Road to NPS is a sort of Ice Road Truckers in Space (I'm expecting some kind of cut if that series ever happens). It's a functional story of an attempt to find a cheaper way to transport cargo across a planet. Rather than firing it up into the atmosphere why not try and drive the cargo across the dangerous ice surface of the planet.
John Barnes's (no, not the footballer) Swift as a Dream and Fleeting as a Sigh is a creepy/charming story of a vastly intelligent AI shrink reviewing it's old case files of a human couple who it was counselling. The AI shrinks have obviously surpassed man, and find us so slow of thought that they view us as almost retarded pets, presumably much reduced in numbers, as the AIs seem overly keen to keep this couple together.
Paul McAuley's Macy Minnot's Last Christmas on Dione, Ring Racing, Fiddler's Green, the Potter's Garden is the strange story of a woman travelling to spread her estranged father's ashes on Dione, a moon of Saturn, in accordance with his will. On her journey she learns of Macy Minnot's time on Dione and gains a renewed appreciation for her father's artistic ability. This is apparently set in a larger story universe, maybe if I'd read some more McAuley this story would have resonated more with me.
Kristine Kathryn Rusch's Safety Tests was another one of the stand-out stories of the collection. Rusch takes the brief a little laterally and presents instead the story of the space DMV. Obviously all those spaceship pilots have to be licensed ... and somebody has to sit on all those flying tests ... why not Devlin? A fun little story that definitely makes me want to dig out the other Rusch stuff that I've been sitting on for a while...
Gwyneth Jones's Bricks, Sticks, Straw is maybe a little too clever for its own good. It's the story of a number of remotely-controlled constructs who gain a sort of sentience when disconnected from their controllers by a solar storm and spend a year trying to get back in contact with their controllers. Interesting, but I was left a little nonplussed.
Hannu Rajaniemi's Tyche and the Ants reads like a sort of fable or children's story. A girl living alone on the Moon has constructed her own fantasy life: friends, places and their stories. When the Ants arrive to find her the computer guarding her wants to move her on somewhere else for her protection, but she doesn't want to leave without her friends. An odd, almost fantasy, flavour to it makes it stand out a little in this collection, but it has pushed Rajaniemi's novels up my to-read list.
Stephen Baxter's Obelisk and Alastair Reynolds's Vainglory kind of ran into each other for me. Neither were particularly stand out. One is about the hubris of building things in a new colony and how that can end up hurting the people you claim to love. The other is an odd tale of terrorism as self-obsession in the insanely rich.
An Owomoyela's Water Rights was another good story to almost round out the collection. An exploration of how off-world colonies would have to manage that most vital of resources: water. In this case by shipping it up from the planet on a space-elevator. This creates political tensions between Earth who feel they're giving up their water and the colony who need it to survive. When a terrorist attack breaks the water supply, those tensions heat up and a hydroponic farmer is called upon to 'do the right thing' with her water surplus.
Bruce Sterling's The Peak of Eternal Light wasn't quite the ending I'd been hoping for. It's a story that doesn't seem at all sure what it's trying to say – although it seems pretty sure that it's supposed to be saying something. It's a story of how cultural differences might develop away from Earth – although it only really looks at one narrow facet of one off-world culture. It's a morality tale of gender politics – although it doesn't attempt to provide any deep thought, analysis or conclusions. It's a story of how the couple that cycles together stays together? Possibly.
This Hard SF novelette was originially published in Edge of Infinity and won the Hugo and Locus novelette awards 2013. I've read it as part of The Year's Best Science Fiction: Thirtieth Annual Collection. She tells the story set a couple of generations in the future solar system from the perspective of a transhuman octopus - one form of the eponymous "sushi" - mining, building and cleaning up around Jupiter's orbit. It is about stellar politics - the inner "Dirt" planets versus the outer sushi planets and in-between Jupiter. But also about tolerance and racism - only featherless bipeds are allowed to work as medicines and on the other hands it is fashionable to be a nautilus as a lawyer. These two themes get into the moving when a large comet is expected to hit the gas planet and one former beauty queen wants to get surgically transformed to sushi-form. I love Cadigan's relaxed characterizations and atmosphere sprinkled with jargon and interesting ideas that make you think a while after closing the last page. Cadigan seems to write way out of her usual comfort zone but she does manage it formidable. A grand world-building, nice prose and very good tension arc. As I heared, Cadigan is currently working on a novel based on the novelette. I'll definitely buy that one. After all, I love sushi!
GR doesn't handle short stories well enough, so I've outsourced my story reviews to my blog. If you're curious, please follow the links to detailed reviews of each story.
Summary: 18 views at a "industrialised, colonised Solar System during a time when starflight is yet to emerge, and imagines life in the hottest places close to our star, and in the coldest, most distant corners of our home.“ It is a setting which was defined previously, most recently in novel form with the great 2312 from Kim Stanley Robinson. The terrific lineup of authors include names like Bruce Sterling, Elizabeth Bear, Alastair Reynolds, or James S.A. Corey. It is Strahan's second anthology installation of what he calls "Fourth Generation of SF" which started with Engineering of Infinity (2010) and was carried on with Reach for Infinity (2014). All of the stories feel plausible and are different.
I seldom find anthologies containing no bad story at all. I liked nearly all of the stories, some were great. That deserves 5 stars.
My favourite ★★★★★ stories were The Girl-Thing Who Went Out For Sushi by Pat Cadigan Swift as a Dream and Fleeting as a Sigh by John Barnes The Peak of Eternal Light by Bruce Sterling
no ☆ or ★
★★★★★ • “The Girl-Thing Who Went Out For Sushi” • novelette by Pat Cadigan • review ★★★ • “The Deeps of the Sky” • short story by Elizabeth Bear • alien mining a gas planet's troposphere for a dowry • review ★★★★ • “Drive” • Expanse prequel by by James S. A. Corey • the invention of the Epstein drive • review ★★★ • “The Road to NPS” • short story by Sandra McDonald and Stephen D. Covey • road-trip on Europa • review ★★★★1/2 • “Swift as a Dream and Fleeting as a Sigh” • short story by John Barnes • near-singularity AI working as psychologist • review ★★★ • “Macy Minnot's Last Christmas on Dione, Ring Racing, Fiddler's Green, the Potter's Garden” • shortstory by Paul J. McAuley • review ★★★ • “Safety Tests” • short story by Kristine Kathryn Rusch • a day in the live of a spacepilot test instructor • review ★★★ • “Bricks, Sticks, Straw” • short story by Gwyneth Jones • remote-controlled A.I.s loose connection • review ★★★1/2 • “Tyche and the Ants” • short story by Hannu Rajaniemi • review ★★ • “Obelisk” • short story by Stephen Baxter • how to build a huge obelisk on Mars • review ★★★1/2 • “Vainglory” • short story by Alastair Reynolds • asteroids used as sculpture material • review ★★1/2 • “Water Rights” • short story by An Owomoyela • water runs dry in a orbital station • review ★★★★1/2 • “The Peak of Eternal Light” • novelette by Bruce Sterling • bicycling on Mercure • review
Finished the anthology which i bought 2 days ago for the Baxter/Reynolds/McAuley stories and they delivered
“The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi” by Pat Cadigan
- nothing for me here as the author's style just doesn't work for me;
“The Deeps of the Sky” by Elizabeth Bear
- a story from an alien's point of view on Jupiter; see comment above
“Drive” by James S.A. Corey
- excellent story set early in the Expanse; short but quite human-oriented more than anything; people discussing politics, science, engineering with the threat of war hanging above their heads; one of the big highlights of the anthology and showing how good the authors are at their best
“The Road to NPS” by Sandra McDonald and Stephen D. Covey
- nothing for me here as the author's style just doesn't work for me;
“Swift as a Dream and Fleeting as a Sigh” by John Barnes
- very good story about AI's tending to humanity and what happens when they try to be more like humans so to speak
“Macy Minnot’s Last Christmas on Dione, Ring Racing, Fiddler’s Green, the Potter’s Garden” by Paul McAuley
- not as coherent as other Quite war stories but a great visit through the universe; highly recommended for any fan of the novels and the milieu
“Safety Tests” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
- nothing for me here as the author's style just doesn't work for me;
“Bricks, Sticks, Straw” by Gwyneth Jones
- a decent story that I read and immediately forgot; something with a mission to Jupiter
“Tyche and the Ants” by Hannu Rajaniemi
- another fast read through and forget as the author's style seems not to work for me; wants to be deep and funny and comes out as pretentious by and large
“Obelisk” by Stephen Baxter
- excellent story set on a future Chinese Mars where a former heroic ship captain who seems himself as a failure and a conman/businessman with pretensions of grandeur change the future between themselves; another huge highlight of the anthology
“Vainglory” by Alastair Reynolds
- another superb story with asteroid sculptures and the vanity of the rich
“Water Rights” by An Owomoyela
- decent story about water and its preciousness when disaster strikes;
“The Peak of Eternal Light” by Bruce Sterling
- this one could be funny and entertaining but comes up on the smug and annoying side despite some interesting cool world-building on mercury for a change; someone like JC Wright who could write a story like this earnestly, could have made it very good but Bruce Sterling writes it parodically and then it becomes a repeat of essentially steampunk ethos in space
Overall 5 excellent stories (Corey, Baxter, Reynolds, Barnes, McAuley) two with enough stuff to keep me reading and remembering them for a little while at least (Owomoyela, Sterling), two that I passed fast through and forgot but were readable (Jones, Rajaniemi) and four basically unreadable for me (Cadigan, Bear, McDonald/Covey, Rusch) though the surprise would have been to find them readable.
Overall a pretty good ratio for a thematic anthology and I recommend it
Here's the detailed review of the anthology to read, by G33z3r : https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... I remember liking the McAuley, and I don't think I ever saw this anthology. I see a couple of other stories I wouldn't mind reading.
I didn't like Pat Cadigan's award-winning opener and couldn't get through the last story by Bruce Sterling, but nearly everything in between was pretty great. I've really enjoyed all the Solaris anthologies I've read so far and recommend them highly.
I never feel that I read enough in the way of short stories, so I try to get them in through anthologies (I seem to love acquiring solely science fiction anthologies). I bought this one a while ago and am glad to have finally got around to reading it. There are some gems here and as usual, some new to me authors that I now want to seek out longer works by.
The Girl-Thing Who Went Out For Sushi by Pat Conroy Excellent story & my measure of those is that I get to the end & want to know more. I hoped the rest would live up to such a wonderful beginning & then thought I was glad this one wasn't put at the end. Humans going through some serious changes to live and work out in far space. Fascinating and kind of scary. Definitely an author whose work I'll seek out.
Drive by James Corey As a fan of The Expanse series, I'd already read this short and can say, it's very good. It reminded me that I need to get back to reading that series.
Safety Tests by Kristine Kathryn Rausch. Even in space the licensing of vehicle operators is dicey. This definitely made me want to get back to her Retrieval Artist series.
Vainglory by Alastair Reynolds. I really enjoyed this short about an artist whose medium is asteroids and the guy who basically uses her art as a conduit to mass destruction all for his, well the title says it all. I have lots of Reynolds' books in my deep TBR pile & I've put reading them off because getting drawn into yet another series is a bit daunting a thought (I've so many I'm in the midst of already!). But, I'm thinking I'm going to just have to because this made me hope this was part of those worlds and I want to know more.
Water Rights by An Owomoyela. Tense times after the ascender from Earth that transports water to space is disrupted by what may not have been an accident. Jordan, owner of the hydro rig Owole Hydroponics has her dreams of roses in space evaporate but only temporarily. A good story about the importance of water and peopel helping one another out & also making the dream of one, the rallying point for all. This definitely made me want to read more by Owomoyela.
Overall, this was a pretty good collection. I've mentioned my favorites here but that's not to say the other stories weren't good as well. With anthologies, it's always about personal taste so I'd recommend this one. I found enough that makes me want to seek out the "new to me" authors' other work and that's one of the things I always look for.
This is an amazing collection of contemporary space-oriented scifi, mostly bent towards the weird, optimistic, and humanistic. Mosts fans will probably pick this up on the strength of a favorite name or three, since a good chunk of the last few decades is represented, but I enjoyed every story. All of them deal with space as a canvas for our ambitions, and ways in which those ambitions mix and collide. The stories are set within the solar system, so no FTL and only a few aliens, but that only increases the wonder of gas giant skies and Titanian snow storms. As with all of these collections, some stories are stronger than others (I'd like to give props to Cadigan, Rausch, and Reynolds), but even the "bad" stories are worth your time.
A really good collection of short stories set around the exploration and colonisation of the solar system. While I pretty much enjoyed all the stories, the highlight was the Expanse> prequel on the live of Solomon Epstein and the story of how he came to create the drive named after him. It's a sublime piece of work on it's own by James S.A. Corey but taken into context of the series as a whole transcends this story into a 5 stars piece of work. Even if the rest of the stories in this collection do not rise to that level, there is something for everyone in this collection, especially if you are looking for realistic visions of humanity's future in space.
A pretty good anthology. Like nearly all sci-fi anthologies, the quality was a little uneven, but the winners were good enough to counterbalance the rare clunker. Anyone that reads my reviews knows I grade on a bell-curve, so 3 stars means 'I enjoyed it, but not one of my favorites.' I wish GR did half-stars.
Of particular note was 'Drive,' the first story in the Expanse series (at least, in terms of the series' chronology. I'm not sure when it was written). That, alone, will sell a lot of copies.
One thing I REALLY enjoyed was that the stories were all similar in focus. They generally took place inside Earth's solar system. I don't know if it was intentional, but it kept the stories somewhat similar in theme and tone, meaning that rather than a random collection of stories, this was a curated group of stories, and one could gain insight about the authors from reading the different ways they all reacted to the ideas of the theme. Of course, there were a few oddball outliers.
A solid collection. So many seemed like they could be larger stories, and ended up being largely about world-building; only a few had a conclusion that really concluded (most end with a move to something new for the characters). If that frustrates you, maybe steer clear, but if that entices you, a worthy read! All hang solidly on the theme about 'frontier' space colonies, early in their days, where so much remains formative and in flux.
I recently reviewed "Engineering Infinity." It is an anthology edited by Jonathan Strahan, as is this volume. Edge of Infinity, iis, in a sense, a sequel to Engineering Infinity. The premise is the same, put together an anthology of wonderful short works by some of today's Science Fiction and Fantasy writers. As with his previous book, Mr. Strahan has triumphed in his quest. Now, I admit, I just simply LOVE anthologies since I can read shorts works by some of my favorite writers and I am introduced to new ones. It is, in a sense, the best of both worlds. As with all anthologies, I loved some of them, "The Peak of Eternal Light," by Bruce Sterling, whom I would put in the top ten list of sci-fi authors writing today. It demonstrates Sterling's ver dry sense of humor, as well as his unique take on our current culture. I cannot say I disliked any of the stories, not at all. For example, Paul McAuley's, "Macy Minnot's Last Christmas on Dione, Ring Racing Fiddles's Green, the Potter's Garden," is a good, entertaining story, good, but not great. It did not inspire me, as so often happens when I read anthologies, to run out and buy up everything he's written. On the other hand, "Drive," by James S.A. Corey, is good enough that I will look into reading more of his stuff. (BTW, sorry if I offended any McAuley fans.) All in all, if you are a sci-fi enthusiast, you will, I am certain, find some things that you will like in this book. If you are curious about sci-fi and want to know more about it, Edge of Infinity is a great place to start, as is Engineering Infinity. Between the two of them, they demonstate just how far and wide this genre can range. The curious reader will also find that some authors do require more than casual reading, i.e., the reader has to pay close attention, while others can be read in a more leisurely fashion. I apologize for the rambling review, but in conclusion, this a a very fine anthology of modern science fiction writing today. My guess is that all readers will find something they like in the book. Recommended.
In the introduction to his previous original SF anthology, Engineering Infinity, Jonathan Strahan coined the term “fourth generation science fiction” to describe where he feels science fiction is and will go in the second decade of the twenty-first century. I feel obliged to note here that Strahan’s introduction is a perfect example of what an introduction should be. It does nothing to spoil any of the joy of reading that is to follow and instead references the purpose of the anthology and posits many interesting things about the future of science fiction. It is a must-read.
Jonathan Strahan references the idea that science itself brings about the “science fiction is dying (or already dead)” wail that is heard with alarming regularity within the SF community. Jonathan Strahan is not decrying science or the wonders revealed by scientific study, but he posits that “this constant barrage of fact can be the enemy of romance, and science fiction needs romance to survive”. Fourth generation science fiction then is fiction that is meant to merge the “romance of science and the romance of fiction” into stories that move SF away from the realm of Earth-bound dystopian futures and inspire both readers and scientists to embrace our love affair with tomorrow, to look to our own Solar System as the next great frontier of exploration. For the most part the choices Jonathan Strahan made for this anthology reflect this dream beautifully.
Edge of Infinity is one of the best anthologies of science fiction short stories that I have ever read. The stories infuse an air of optimism into the heart of those who long to see humanity explore the wonders in our immediate universe.
For non-spoiler overviews of each individual story, please visit my blog entry:
1. The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi - clever, fun, unusual.
2. The Deeps of the Sky - not to my taste
3. Drive - James S A Corey's short story about the creation of the Epstein star drive. Wonderful, magical. The ending is exquisite and left me in tears. •• This story alone is worth the price of the book.
4. The Road to NPS - abruptly ends just as it's getting started. Too bad.
5. Swift as a Dream, Fleeting as a Sigh - human, wonderful and sad, tragic.
6. Macy Minnot's Last Christmas on Dione.... The author Paul McAuley is an amazing, extraordinary talent. This story is a gem, perfectly rendered and filled with wonder and love. A perfect example of why science fiction is the King of all fictions. •• Alone, this story is worth the price of the book.
7. Safety Tests - A "day in the life" of a driving (spaceships) instructor/tester. Quite a bit of fun, just the right amount of sarcasm, with a delightfully surprise ending!
Unfortunately, the remaining stories in this anthology were very poor :( 8. "Bricks, Sticks, Straw" by Gwyneth Jones 9. "Tyche and the Ants" by Hannu Rajaniemi 10. "Obelisk" by Stephen Baxter 11. "Vainglory" by Alastair Reynolds 12. "Water Rights" by An Owomoyela 13. "The Peak of Eternal Light" by Bruce Sterling
One of the tendencies of any reviewer is to compare what you just read to something you had read before, compare one author to another, and even though I’ve read a lot of Cadigan’s work in the past and believe she’s an original thinker, I can’t help but see this story as some some of hybrid between Bruce Sterling’s Shaper/Mechanist stories (except focused here entirely on the Shaper culture) and James Tiptree, Jr.’s “The Only Neat Thing to Do.” And, because I love both of those, I absolutely adored this story. Cadigan’s style her is breezy and cool, throwing out concepts left and right, but keeping them street rather than technical or conceptual, letting you the reader figure out how they connect. Even the ending has a Sterling flair to it, a big high concept idea that you struggle to hold in your mind, then returns down to …well, I was going to say earth, but this is entirely Big J, so it returns, you know. Highly recommended as one of Cadigan’s best stories.
Good set of short stories about humanity's first steps into space. As with most collections they vary in quality but there are only a couple that I thought were not up to the standard of the rest. I really liked the stories from Corey, Reynolds, Barnes, Owomeyela, and Sterling. Corey's is a neat "origin story" for his Expanse series, in which he describes the mostly-accidental discovery of the Epstein drive from the point of view of its inventor, Solomon Epstein. Reynolds tells a neat story about an advanced art form, asteroid carving, and a resulting atrocity. Owomeyela, whom I'd never heard of before, tells us about an important decision facing a lunar frontierswoman in the face of a sudden catastrophe. Barnes' entry is basically a well-told Ozymandias on Mars. And Sterling's considers the possibility of massive cultural divergence among the extraterrestrial colonies.
Katharine is a judge for the Aurealis Awards. This review is the personal opinion of Katharine herself, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of any judging panel, the judging coordinator or the Aurealis Awards management team.
To be safe, I won't be recording my review here until after the AA are over.
An impressive amount of worldbuilding for a novelette. Clever, original premise with a good sense of humor from its narrator. Although it was hard to follow, I enjoyed the detailed zaniness of it all, which is actually treated pretty seriously for such an oddball premise.
The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi by Pat Cadigan Whoa. I've never been as plunged headfirst into a universe or world in a short story before. Struggling to catch up to the lingo, the slang, the world itself - it felt a bit like Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice packed into a shorter format. And that's actually a good thing. The voice telling the story, the world and the ideas really sold me on this story. I give it 4 stars. The idea that people have been evolved into sea-life to colonize and exist in interplanetary space was something I hadn't seen before. In a few short pages, we get the whole idea of how the world works, who these people are, and what it takes to "go out for sushi." It's a wonderful introduction to the series of shorts, and gives a couple of wholly original takes on science fiction, at least in my opinion. I greatly enjoyed the story, but was left lacking for the meat. It didn't quite scratch the itch I was hoping it to.
The Deeps of the Sky by Elizabeth Bear Two for two in this collection. A very, very weird story with an almost wholly alien protagonist, and a story to compete. Following a Jupiter exploration from the POV of an insectoid/hive mind/angler fish sentient Jovian native, the story itself is an immerse experience, but what really hits home is the final two paragraphs, when you finally realize just how alien the protagonist is. 4 Stars. Much like the story before this, We're introduced to a truly alien landscape, with different ideals and aspirations than humans would normally have. The introduction is a bit long, and again the meat of the story comes in a bit too late for my taste, the authors so far seem very interested in giving information about the world and fleshing it out rather than focusing on character and drama. It's what I expect from a collection like this - focus on ideas over story, but as a writer, it feels like being shortchanged. The final words of the story do really bring it in and actually teared me up a bit. It's a really solid entry, and a pretty fun read.
Drive by James S.A. Corey This is really the short story that I bought the whole collection for, so, needless to say, it's my favorite so far. James SA Corey just hits my perfect G-spot of sci-fi action space opera goodness, and this story is no exception. It follows Solomon Epstein, a figure from the past of the Expanse's history, inventor of the technology that allows rapid travel. Superbly written, amazingly done, five stars. I'm trying to look at this story as something without the context of the Expanse Universe behind it, and I think the story still is a compelling one. Like most of the greatest stories ever told, it's part romance, but follows Solomon in his quest to make the drives of ships more efficient, trying to give Mars a leg up on the technological front, bridging the gap between Mars and its parent Earth, working to offset the differences between them. The framing device works so well for this kind of story, and as the it progresses, it becomes more and more apparent that we're reading something special in the context of the Expanse, that it has some kind of small idea that makes it a little different from the kind of story you might expect. It's a great introduction to the Expanse, and a good story in general. That's three out of three stories in this collection that have been really solid.
The Road to NPS by Sandra McDonald and Stephen D. Covey This collection just doesn't seem to want to disappoint. A great drama about a paranoid man who sets out to be the first to prove that Europa can be navigated to deliver cargo via ground rather than orbital arcing, this is a well-told story about a man's struggle to get home and prove himself. A stowaway changes all that, and he's left trying to work with her to get home. 4 stars, due to the ending. I really enjoyed each of the well-shaded characters, each with a life of their own outside the story, and the protagonist, especially, was a peculiar kind of man, almost unlikable, but still grumpy and gruff enough of an anti-hero to enjoy riding with for 85 hours. My only complaint about the story would be the ending. It seems like the authors reached a point where they had simply told all the story they wanted to tell, then wrapped up the rest of the journey in a single sentence, skipping forward in time to the wrap-up. I felt like this had at least another couple of pages left in it, detailing the exhaustion, the paranoia, and the frustration of the main character's journey. But honestly, it's a minor quibble, as the rest of it was very well written, and enjoyable.
Swift as a Dream and Fleeting as a Sigh by John Barnes Now this is just getting ridiculous. This story was fantastic, as they all have been in this collection. A unique perspective, an interesting story that's sort of a non-story, and implications which reach deep into the human condition, this story exemplifies the problems and questions of what it means to be human living with machines, what happens when machines help. 4 stars. The story revolves around a machine that's trained to be a therapist for the remainder of humanity, talking with coal mining robot technicians, working them through their problems while taking time in between answers to read, study, consult, and dream. It's fascinating to watch a therapy session from the point of view of an AI, and this story pulls it off with flying colors. The implied future, the story that presumably follows, they create an excellent world outside the short story, something that all of these shorts have done so far - it goes beyond worldbuilding, and just really fills out that the story is taking place in a real and fleshed out universe.
Macy Minnot's Last Christmas on Dione, Ring Racing, Fiddler's Green, The Potter's Garden by Paul McAuley I'm beginning to suspect that my love of this short story collection has more to do with the subject matter than anything else. This story has little in the way of plot development, but maximizes the characterizations and descriptions of the future these people inhabit. Stunning description and wonder pervade this 4 star story. At the beginning of this, I really felt like I might not like it. It's an aimless sort of story, all description and characterization - no plot, not point. I was almost ready to write it off as the one bad story in the collection. But looking back at it, it's strange - this actually has more highlights in this one story than in all the others combined - it's a different kind of story. The language is so beautiful. It's almost poetry, which fits because the story deals with art and artists on the frozen moon of Dione. I became engrossed in it. And by the end, it might be the most powerful story in the collection. I looked up the author (which I've done for most of the stories) and find that this is a short story from his series of Quiet War books. Another series added to my list.
Safety Tests by Kristine Kathryn Rusch A fun story about what is essentially the DMV in space. Only this job is one of the most dangerous and hazardous you can have, given how easily space can kill you. The story involves a single day in the life of our instructor pilot, his easygoing voice and manner betraying a hard military background. It's an enjoyable piece, fun and sobering. Not as good as the others in the collection though. 3 stars. It's always interesting to see the differences between the authors in this collection, right on the heels of a poetic story, we have a flippant DMV instructor going through his daily routine of trying to fail out pilots due to the fact that it's nearly impossible to fly safely. Our guy is a stickler for the rules, but that keeps him alive - and he's got to deal with six different candidates on this day, something he may or may not make it out alive from. No planetary exploration in this one, but a great look at a minute portion of future space travel nonetheless.
Bricks, Sticks, and Straw by Gwyneth Jones Another of the somewhat poetic stories in this collection, this revolves around a group of Artificial intelligences who are left to their own devices after a solar flare cuts them off from humanity. The structure of this story is the most uplifting I've seen so far - this ignited a ton of story ideas for me, and reminded me of Thomas Was Alone and parts of Portal. Very enjoyable, 4 stars. I've found that the ideas of AI having their own unique personalities and quirks is something that's very enjoyable and beautiful, that something so intricate and perfectly designed has a flaw or a personality trait that would be considered odd or strange. It's the central idea behind all great stories about artificial intelligence, I think - an off the cuff thought, but something that makes them interesting. HAL has his psychopathy, the bots in AI have their love and their need for acceptance, the same goes for video games. We're fascinated with the idea of AI as life we've bestowed, growing and learning with their quirks and eccentricities. This story highlights these in the best way possible. The idea of a memory house and the main AI trying to reignite her friends' passions, pulling them back from the quirky abyss of self-actualization - all handled deftly with a sad pull and an interesting narrative makes this one of the sadder and more beautiful stories in the collection.
Tyche and the Ants by Hannu Rajaniemi I enjoyed this story, although I think it was a little bit out of sync with the rest of the collection. It involved a rumination of genetic engineering as told through the eyes of a child in a highly imaginative setting. It's one of the stranger stories to grasp in this collection, more questions than answers, but a welcome addition in terms of variety. No disappointment. Three stars to this one. I almost want to go back and read it again to make sure I understand everything. An immortal girl abandoned by her parents on the moon has created a sort of fantasy world for herself with the basalt rocks and the AI managing her. It's an Alice in Wonderland kind of story that takes place on the moon, but ultimately deals with the pain and sadness of being abandoned and different, of being lied to. The Ants themselves figure very little in the story, and I get the feeling that this was a novel idea first, and a short story second. As a novel, it's something I would love to get into, but there's just not enough time it seems in the short. As with many of the other stories, however, I've enjoyed the writing style, and will likely need to seek out this author's other stories.
Obelisk by Stephen Baxter This was the first story that I thought didn't quite have the heart that I'd come to expect from the other stories. It's an interesting tale of architecture and a rumination on taking structures for your own, and how they end up defining your culture and your people, but in the wake of this story, characters are forgotten, and when we reach the end, the punchline isn't as strong because of it. Three stars. I could tell that the author was a lot more interested in exploring the ramifications of a giant structure on Mars geopolitically or in the context of history than it was with the characters that inhabit the world. It felt like a throwback to some of the older science fiction I'd read, more interested in the concept than the story. It works here, but ends up with the climax falling flat, as a character we're supposed to care about commits suicide in front of two people we've been following. It's conceptually great, and I feel like with a novel in between, this would be an excellent story - but as it is, there just wasn't enough room to make this one compelling enough.
Vainglory by Alastair Reynolds Much in line with the previous story, this is about the future of art and architecture, with artists carving asteroids into gigantic works of art as a testament to themselves and their lives - this story is all about legacy, and it's done with more finesse than the last one, pitting two characters against each other at the end of their lives in an attempt to be remembered. Four stars for this one. It ties together thematically very well, as two 80 year olds talk about the future and what will happen to their names when they're gone. Oddly enough, the story revolves around an act of terrorism so horrible and so disgusting to the main characters, that the entire plot revolves around it - yet by the end of the story, they're discussing their own legacy, which was what motivated the act of terrorism in the first place. It's an examination of human influence on the future, and it works incredibly well as a fable for one's future and what happens when one is gone from this earth. The world presented is great, and the idea is interesting, but theme is where this one really shines.
Water Rights by An Owomoyela One of the first stories so far in this collection I didn't much care for. It deals with a woman who is on the frontier of setting up outer-Earth hydroponics business, and her reaction to an explosion that causes a shortage of water in outside of Earth. The way it's told felt a little cold, and I didn't feel much for the characters, though I sympathized with them, it didn't grab me. Two Stars here. The idea itself is interesting, but the introduction and one-note style characters kept me from being instantly engaged in their plight. A couple of small gestures here or there to let me know who these people are, why I should care about them, and why this is such a big deal would have gone a long way. As-is, these elements are glossed over in the bigger scheme of things with the simple idea that "In the future, water will be a precious commodity, we need to band together." It's a fine sentiment, but the story needs roots in character to care. This is the only disappointing story so far in this otherwise fabulous collection.
The Peak of Eternal Light by Bruce Sterling The final and longest story in the collection is also somewhat disappointing to me on a tonal and character level, although it's right in line with the world-building focus of the collection. This story deals with a pair of characters who are colonists on Mercury, a strictly separated gender-based society that's reminiscent of the Victorian times, all prim and proper and propriety. It's this angle that doesn't quite work for me - as the reasoning behind the society being structured this way is somewhat thin. Outside of the main story points, of the man and woman interacting as if they are talking with aliens, there are a lot of great ideas in this story. The idea that every planet has its own kind of woman or societal structure, and that the settlers of Mercury look on these "foreigners" with disdain is really interesting, as is Sterling's description of one man's pioneering vision of colonizing the sun and humanity's vision of being freed from the solar system, harnessing the power of the sun and using its energy to spread out through the universe unhindered and unimpeded. Although the world-building is great, honestly the characters and their plights turned me off from the story somewhat - there are gender stereotypes being poked fun at here, a lot of "women think this way, men think this way" kinds of passages. Although I'm sure the author doesn't actually think this way, it's enough that the characters subscribe to this without much along the lines of satire to turn me off from the story. Their situation isn't silly enough to pull you out of the fact that their society is completely backwards. Overall, this story gets 3.5 to 4 stars from me for it's grand ideas, but poor character and plot execution, with a muddled theme.
Overall, this collection really impressed me. Most of them had some really really great aspect of world-building in them, really taking some thought and transporting you into their reality and their world, trying their best to take out from this life on Earth into the near future, not quite galaxy-spanning, but also not quite near-near future. The purpose of this collection was to enter the mid-range area where humanity is spreading out to the other planets and moons in the solar system, and in this, in almost every story, it succeeds. I've really enjoyed reading this off and on over the past few months, and I'm glad to have been introduced to so many great authors from my love of James S.A. Corey. The collection overall is a 4 star ordeal, if only because it loses a little bit of steam at the end, starting with the wildly imaginative stories, then morphing into the traditional power-struggle conceptual stories we're used to.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
if this was published back in the early or late 1960s, it might have made it into Dangerous Visions or Again, Dangerous Visions, respectively, on a general principle - or not. for a second decade of this century - i find it underwhelming, especially for a Hugo+Locus winner. but then it was the 2013 awards, sooo...
Well worth the price. Some are straightforward in plot. Others require careful reading or repeat reading to grasp the author's point. For the most part these stories are about the implications of a situation or technology. Others are simply a short exploration with some world building. Not every story satisfied me, as I found a few lacking the proper execution. Others left me wanting to know more about the world presented to me. On balance it's a positive collection for stories to read.