After two slightly slimmer volumes, #30 returns to a chunkier size – huzzah!
Close to 30 stories in here, many of which at a first glance I’ve read in their original appearance. So I’ll building up this review as I progress through the volume, inserting the previously reviewed stories, and reviewing the new-to-me stories individually and pasting them here..
Some spoilers below, but here are some links should you wish to buy:
Indrapramit Das. Weep for Day.
Originally in : Asimovs, August 2012.
When I read it last year I was impressed :
Das is a new author to me, and this story is an impressive introduction. He posits a world that has one hemisphere permanently turned to face the sun, one turned away. I’m sure the more scientifically minded would post huge objections as to why this would be impossible for intelligent life to develop, but as a social scientist I’m more interested in the society he portrays.
The society is in effect that of Victorian England, with a steampunky vibe about it. The narrator is a woman looking back on a childhood train journey that she took when she was eight. The journey was with her older brother and parents – her father a captain of industry and very much a Knight of the Realm, in that in this society, as a young men he was part of forays into the inhospitable night-side of the planet, where he slew one of the ‘Nightmares’ that live there, and threaten them.
Or, rather, one of the creatures that live in the night-side and whom they feel threatened by, as the story looks at how the society chooses to destroy that which it does not understand and thus fears. It’s a nicely different conceit, and handled well.
Paul McAuley. The Man.
Originally in : Arc 1.2
Set in McAuley’s Jackaroo universe, a great little story of an elderly beachcomber who finds a man at her remote door. Who he was, or what he is, is a mystery, perhaps tied in with the ancient semi-submerged alien factories on the nearby beaches of the remote planet gifted to humanity by the Jackaroo. Classy.
Jay Lake. The Stars Do Not Lie.
Originally in : Asimovs, October/November 2012
When I read the story last year I wrote:
Lake frequently covers religion and faith in his excellent blog in which he identifies himself as a “low church atheist” (‘not of that mindset that seeks to deconvert others or discredit religion’), in which I (for the record) identified myself as a ‘high church atheist’ (‘advocates strongly against religion in all its forms’).
That said, let’s get on talking about Lake’s story. It’s the second time in two years that an SF story majoring on religion and faith has been doubly nominated, with Eric James Stone’s ‘That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made’ winning the Nebula. That Analog story left me unmoved when I initially read it (review here), and bemused when I re-read it as a Nebula winner, on account of it’s being some way short of what I believe you would need in terms of literary merit and storytelling to win that award.
Anyhoo, Lake’s story is some way stronger than Stone’s. Lake’s story has a veneer of steampunk about it, a Victorian setting with electricks making some changes to society. He places some intriguing characters in each camp – the opening sentence introducing “Morgan Abutti; B.Sc. Bio.; M.Sc.Arch.; Ph.D.Astr.& Nat, Sci.; 4th degree Thalassocrete;Member, Planetary Society; and Association Fellow of the New Garaden Institute…..”
Abutti has found something in the stars that entirely debunks the creation myth in his society, and somewhat naively, his plan to reveal all in front of his scientific colleagues leads him into big trouble. The story progresses through multiple perspectives of the protagonists (perhaps a slight failing in the story, as it crams a lot into a little space).
There’s more than a touch of Paul Di Filippo about the story (a good thing), with descriptions and settings similar to the excellent Linear City stories by PDF. There’s a dramatic ending – perhaps too dramatic if you were to quibble to the nth degree, as things happen very quickly. It’s a story that you’d want to see Lake being able to turn into a full length novel. We’d very, very much like to see Lake being able to turn it into a full length novel…
Lavie Tidhar. The Memcordist.
Originally online : Eclipse Online (and still online!)
Jonathan Strahan’s Eclipse Online digital only follow-up to the four printed Eclipse anthologies lasted barely long enough for me to rack up a backlog of stories. As ever, Tidhar provides quality, neatly picking up the gap left by Charles Stross not writing much in the way of short SF these days. Here he follows, in an nonlinear fashion, the thoughts and actions of a man whose entire life is shared with the farfuture version of twitter/facebook etc.
Pat Cadigan. The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi.
Originally in : Edge of Infinity.
When I read this last year in an excellent anthology from Strahan I noted :
Cadigan gets Strahan’s latest anthology off to a fine start. The volume is hot off the press so follow the link at the bottom of this review to buy a copy yourself to read if you want to avoid any spoilers!
The theme of the collection is humanity as yet till constrained to the solar system, and Cadigan looks at some of the tensions inherent in that through a JovOp crew, asteroid mining and generally tidying up out from Earth. There’s an inner/outer debate, with those further out in the system having taken some major evolutionary steps the better to live out there. The narrator, who tells the story with a pleasant vibe, is onesuch, a calamarically long way from his Two-Stepper origins. With a follow-up comet to Shoemaker-Levy about to hit Jupiter, things start to happen…
Eleanor Arnason. Holmes Sherlock.
Originally published in Eclipse Online.
When it appeared online I noted :
The Hwarhath stories have left me pretty unmoved in the past, but heigh-ho, like Charlotte, Best SF is an increasingly broad church. Online here
Obviously Jonathan Strahan bought it for Eclipse Online, and Gardner Dozois picked it for this volume, so follow the link above and read it, and ignore my pooh-poohing it.
Richard A. Lovett and William Gleason. Nightfall on the Peak of Eternal Light.
Originally in : Analog, July/August 2012.
I gave up on reading Analog a few years back, frustrating that the stories were more scientist fiction than science fiction – stories written by scientists, about scientists, for scientists, and that the quality of the writing tended to be average at best. Well, there aren’t any scientists in this thriller about a man fleeing to the moon, with a price on his head, but it’s all fairly routine, with everything spelled out nice and clearly and just missing anything really special to warrant its inclusion in this volume.
Andy Duncan. Close Encounters.
Originally in : Fantasy & Science Fiction, September/October 2012.
When it appeared last year I liked :
A heart-warming take on the the final years of one Buck Nelson (wikipedia) who evidently achieved some degree of fame/notoriety for his visition by men (and women) (and dogs) from Mars (and Venus), and who spent time out on those planets, and had his lumbago cured.
Nelson died in 1982, and the story is based around them, with him giving short shrift in his remote farmhouse to a reporter that comes a-calling. Duncan gets into the character of the crotchety old farmer extremely well, and manages to stay just the right side of maudlin sentimentality at the end.