Solaris Rising 3 being the fourth (duhh) in a series of new SF from Whates/Solaris, the previous three volumes having been warmly received by myself – viz Volume 2, Volume 1.5, the un-numbered first volume.
Benjanun Sriduangkaew. When We Harvested the Nacre Rice.
Sriduangkaew gets the story off to a strong start, with a story focussing on two women and the relationship between them. One is a civilian, part of the ‘unwar’ two planets. It’s not a war in the traditional sense, as traditional weapons are banned, but each is disrupting the others communications channels, and more, dangerously, the neural networks of each others’ citizens, making everyone a combatant.
They are keeping the war the from the eyes of the all-power Hegemony, but a visitor who turns up at Pahayal’s house is more than she says, and whilst the two form a bond, that bond is tested by politics and actions..
Chris Beckett. The Goblin Hunter.
I’ve just read in Interzone, the winner of the latest James White Award for unpublished authors, and noted that story didn’t read in any way (as some previous winners have) as the work of a novice writer.
In contrast, this story, from a well-established writer whose short stories have been received with critical acclaim, does read like the work of a novice writer. It lacks any great depth or subtlety, spelling all the issues out, and with some writing that did actually cause a wince or two (..he was a big pear-shaped man with a thick tobacco-stained moustache and eyes that looked in two different directions..)
Ken Liu. Homo Floresiensis.
A tad disappointing. Leaving aside the fact that the story could be looked at as a commentary on how humanity might be seen by aliens observing us, the story about two scientists discussing the ethical issues of announcing to the world that they have found a tribe of home floresiensis on a remote Indonesian island lacks an sfnal element, and just doesn’t seem a good fit for the anthology.
Julie E. Czerneda. A Taste for Murder.
An inventive whodunnit with a detective trying to find out whodunnit in a social where celebrity and genetic manipulation are being taken to the nth degree.
Tony Ballantyne. Double Blind.
Takes a look at testing drugs on paid volunteers, where the pay is high, but so are the risks. And when the risks get even higher…
Nicely handled with a neat ending, from an author I’ve not read enough from in recent years.
Sean Williams. The Mashup.
Clever story from Williams, with some nice touches (…eggplant…) as the morning after the night before becomes increasingly more than simply nursing a hangover, as..
Aliette de Bodard. The Frost on Jade Buds.
In de Bodard’s Xuya series, and this includes recurrent themes of familial relationships, honour alongside big spaceships and galaxy spanning action.
A young woman on an orbital station has to find her sister and convince her that despite the opportunity to get revenge for her own experiences, the path she is taking is not for the common good.
Alex Dally MacFarlane. Popular Images from the First Manned Mission to Enceladus.
Clever approach by MacFarlane who describes photographs, posters and other images, and their background, relating to a multinational scientific expedition to Enceladus, what is found there, and the challenges faced…
Gareth L. Powell. Red Lights, and Rain.
Vampire drama in Amsterdam.
Laura Lam. They Swim Through Sunset Seas.
A team in an undersea scientific station on a distant planet are studying an aquatic species find things suddenly get very very difficult. Written in the form of a love letter/update to her recently killed partner, the writer reflects on her relationship as things get progressively more critical.
Ian Watson. Faith Without Teeth.
A strange story, something that could have been scribbled down after a nightmare by an appartchik. It’s set in a communist state where everyone is expected to relinquish their teeth at adulthood, to ensure the wall of teeth that protects the state from the evil of capitalism, the satire looks at love, opting out of the teeth removal, and a night spent amongst pickled eels. In the closing paragraphs one of the protagonists takes a piss, as Watson takes the piss throughout.
Adam Roberts. Thing and Sick.
I’ve only read a few stories by Roberts, and interestingly this is the third with an icy setting, following his ‘The Ice Submarine’ and ‘Park Polar’.
Here Roberts puts a very ill-matched couple a couple of miles away from anyone in the Antartic, on a research station, and lets their close confinement spark off the story. There’s a lot of science in the story, as the narrator, in the opening sentences, describes how his companion, Roy, has indeed found the solution to the Fermi Paradox in the astronomical data they are studying. There’s also philosophy, with Kant’s ‘I think, therefore I am’ being a key point.
Things start to come to a head with some silliness over a letter, and then over some very strange behaviour from Roy, which opens up his colleague’s eyes to just what is out there, and what they are doing. Roberts neatly references Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ in a subtle closing section.
George Zebrowski. The Sullen Engines.
Not entirely sure about this one – a woman finds that her anger at the extent to which the automobile has taken over society isn’t a wasted anger, as she has the wherewithal to make the engines disappear. Literally.
There’s something Ballardian about the imagery of engines sitting under the sun on a remote desert, but it’s one of those stories I sometimes feel that I’m missing something without which I’m not really getting what the story is really about.
Cat Sparks. Dark Harvest.
Blimey, this anthology appears to be doing something with the space-time continuum as I seem to have been reading this forever!
Here Sparks cleverly contrasts the hard life of a front-line soldier/oppresser/invader as a team struggling on an inhospitable planet, with acid rain heading their way and genmod super-men to fight, with that of a group of indigenous members of a holy order, who are implacably carrying out their religious duties, even on a battlefield in a challenging climate.
There’s a lot of devil in the detail and the story works well.
Benjamin Rosenbaum. Fift and Shria.
Inventive story from Rosenbaum, through the eyes of youngsters where birth order is more important than usual, as siblings (clones?) are closely linked and act as one, and the family unit is not the nuclear norm.
Ian R. MacLeod and Martin Sketchley. The Howl.
The wreckage of a crashed Vulcan bomber, missing since the days of the Cold War, gives an opportunity to reflect on the ‘what ifs’ of that period, the nuclear payload being at once a Pandora’s Box into which Schrodinger’s cat is put.
Nicely handled and restrained, but effective.
Nina Allan. The Science of Chance.
Another look back at The Cold War, with a young girl left abandoned at a soviet railway station suggesting links back to the 60s, well before her birth, when the Cuban Missile Crisis ending with a nuclear strike nearby, but with that station left untouched. Are there strange forces at work, and/or is it simply a case of a little lost girl?
Rachel Swirsky. Endless.
The anthology finishes with a look back at, a reliving, of deaths in a child labour factory on the subcontinent, as those who died, and will continue to die, furnish those that live on, digitally,…
The anthology took me a while to get through, probably (looking at it in retrospect) that it didn’t have enough really top quality stories in it for me to be eagerly reaching for the volume with eager anticipation for the next story. Some good stories, but nothing really cojonal grabbing.