This compendium of crisp, clever, intricate tales is a terrific introduction to Adam Roberts, an always intriguing but not always consistent British SF author and critic, here staking out the rarefied career-plateau he first scaled with his space-romp "Jack Glass." Years have passed since I've read a collection this eclectic, stimulating, and just plain fun, going back all the way to Ted Chiang's "Stories of Your Life and Others." Ted Chiang is a good comparison. Traditionalists, he and Adam Roberts both apply the structures and approaches of Golden-Age SF to up-to-the minute physics and social and cognitive sciences. Craftsmen, they both write lucid, polished prose that prizes precision and clarity over flourish and filigree. Thinkers, they care about the content and context of ideas more than the quirks and niceties of character, though they never embarrass themselves: their people are thick and layered but not quite three-dimensional; it's just clear where their primary interest lies.
Unlike Ted Chiang, who publishes rarely, and tries to change the world with every story, Adam Roberts seems unselfconsciously prolific and blessed with a light touch. He is also much more (cheerfully) pessimistic. Ted Chiang agonizes over every eventuality and despairs when he cannot find a happy ending; Adam Roberts lances the boil and moves on. You need some lemonade to chase the milk of human kindness. Roberts earns his pitilessness through curiosity and intellectual integrity, and he never preaches, but serves-up.
Here you'll find sparkling ideas and pitch-black wit, a respect for tradition and mastery of the latest trends, a brevity of expression and a breadth of imagination, a playfulness of plot and a seriousness of purpose. More than one story here--the title tale, "Anticopernicus"--is so earth-shatteringly, jaw-droppingly awesome, so surprising, so challenging, so perfect, that only Ted Chiang could have written it. Except Adam Roberts did it first, willing to joke and juggle and wink while Chiang tinkers endlessly, perfecting perpetual-motion machines. Funny how two such opposite approaches brought the two to conquer neighboring peaks. Funny how few (or no) others come even close.
Read this book now.