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The Lowest Heaven [Paperback]

Jared Shurin , Joey Hi-Fi , National Maritime Museum
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

10 Jun 2013

We have adorned the lowest heaven with an ornament, the planets...

A string of murders on Venus. Saturn's impossible forest.
Voyager I's message to the stars - returned in kind.
Edible sunlight.

The Lowest Heaven collects seventeen astonishing, never-before-published stories from award-winning authors and provocative new literary voices, each inspired by a body in the solar system, and features extraordinary images drawn from the archives of the Royal Observatory Greenwich.

Contributors include Sophia McDougall, Alastair Reynolds, Archie Black, Maria Dahvana Headley, Adam Roberts, Simon Morden, E. J. Swift, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Mark Charan Newton, Kaaron Warren, Lavie Tidhar, Esther Saxey, David Bryher, S.L. Grey, Kameron Hurley, Matt Jones and James Smythe. The Lowest Heaven is introduced by Dr. Marek Kukula, Public Astronomer at the Royal Observatory, with a cover designed by award-winning artist Joey Hi-Fi.

Contains Sophia McDougall's "Golden Apple", a finalist for the British Fantasy Awards, E.J. Swift's "Saga's Children", a finalist for the BSFA and Kaaron Warren's "Air, Water and the Grove", finalist for the Ditmar and winner of the Aurealis Awards.

This is the solar system as you've never seen it before.

"Every contribution to this excellent anthology is of stellar quality." - Financial Times

"A perfect snapshot of the the state of current science fiction.... There's a lot to relish here, a lot to enjoy, and nothing that doesn't display both thought and talent." - ARC

"Visually beautiful with an incredibly high quality of fiction. Highly recommended." - The List

"As inspiring as it is inspired." - Tor.com

Selected for Locus' Recommended Reading List.

"An indispensable collection of short fiction." - SF Signal

""Published in partnership with the Royal Observatory Greenwich, [The Lowest Heaven] comes with an array of lavish photographs and drawings from the observatory's archive. It's a strong collection; the best stories veer towards fantasy rather than, as might be expected in an anthology about the solar system, the science fictional." - Guardian

"The tales act as a portrait of the different voices and approaches in today's SF, as well as proving the genre hasn't run out of ways to explore our dreams" - SFX


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Product details

  • Paperback: 380 pages
  • Publisher: Jurassic London (10 Jun 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0957646216
  • ISBN-13: 978-0957646216
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.2 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 429,985 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5.0 out of 5 stars Top-notch 6 Nov 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
17 stories launched by objects in our cosmos, from Mercury out to Voyager I. What stories. What imagination. What tales of wonder. Adam Roberts' 18th Century tale of a voyage to the moon turns itself inside out. Kaaron Warren delivers dreamchills in hallucinatory fashion. This idiosyncratic collection that fits together, somehow, like family, only without the awkward holiday dinners. Further shouts-out to Kameron Hurley's "Enyo-Enyo" wanders through the system in an mysterious cycle, much like Eris. James Smythe caps off the system with "The Grand Tour", his postapocalyptic paean to Voyager I. Make it a point to get this ebook.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent anthology 12 July 2013
By W.M.M. van der Salm-Pallada TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
The Lowest Heaven is the fifth Jurassic London anthology and the first to concentrate on a specific corner of the speculative fiction genre, science fiction. Of course, as it's been inspired by bodies in the Solar System, this isn't surprising and the stories included in this anthology show the breadth and depth of SF stories. There are some stories that are hard SF, some alternate history SF, some stories that could almost be considered mainstream, and everything in between. What results is a collection of stories that as a whole work very well, but which has a larger amount of stories that didn't work for me than previous Jurassic London anthologies did.

The stories that didn't work for me, were ones for which I really had to work to even comprehend what was happening in the story, without getting a satisfactory return for that work. For his story Only Human, Lavie Tidhar worked with a concept of networked humans, who are connected much like a computer network, but I just couldn't make sense of the concept en the explanation for it came late in the story, which led to endless frustration for me. Maria Dahvana Headley's The Krakatoan just went over my head. I found it hard to find my feet with the story and once I did, I almost immediately lost it again in the volcanic imagery and visions. It might be a combination of the story not fitting the reader (i.e. me) comfortably and me being rather exhausted at the time of reading, but both of these stories just left me feeling more frustrated than entertained and I found myself struggling to get through them.

What ties most of my favourites in this anthology together is their focus on human relationships, emotions, and endings.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent anthology 12 July 2013
By W.M.M. van der Salm-Pallada - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The Lowest Heaven is the fifth Jurassic London anthology and the first to concentrate on a specific corner of the speculative fiction genre, science fiction. Of course, as it's been inspired by bodies in the Solar System, this isn't surprising and the stories included in this anthology show the breadth and depth of SF stories. There are some stories that are hard SF, some alternate history SF, some stories that could almost be considered mainstream, and everything in between. What results is a collection of stories that as a whole work very well, but which has a larger amount of stories that didn't work for me than previous Jurassic London anthologies did.

The stories that didn't work for me, were ones for which I really had to work to even comprehend what was happening in the story, without getting a satisfactory return for that work. For his story Only Human, Lavie Tidhar worked with a concept of networked humans, who are connected much like a computer network, but I just couldn't make sense of the concept en the explanation for it came late in the story, which led to endless frustration for me. Maria Dahvana Headley's The Krakatoan just went over my head. I found it hard to find my feet with the story and once I did, I almost immediately lost it again in the volcanic imagery and visions. It might be a combination of the story not fitting the reader (i.e. me) comfortably and me being rather exhausted at the time of reading, but both of these stories just left me feeling more frustrated than entertained and I found myself struggling to get through them.

What ties most of my favourites in this anthology together is their focus on human relationships, emotions, and endings. Sophia McDougall's Golden Apple not just is a tale of what lengths a parent will go through to save their sick child, but also a tale of knowing when to let go and give them peace. I love McDougall's clear style and her deft prose. David Bryher's From This Day Forward deals with the strain of saying goodbye and leaving things behind, even if you're happy to go. It was a poignant story and was easy to relate to. I loved S.L. Grey's We'll Always Be Here not just for the complicated love/hate relationship between Pluto and Sharon, but also the strange almost religious devotion Sharon has developed for Tyra Banks and her America's Next Top Model. This both made me laugh and made the story extra tragic, as I'm quite familiar with ANTM - it's my guilty pleasure - and I found it tragic and quite a deft social commentary how much Sharon had internalised the ideals of beauty shown on the show. I loved the resolution of the story, since I hadn't seen it coming at all and it was a fantastic twist. Matt Jones' The Comet's Tale could almost pass as mainstream and was again quite dark and sad, dealing as it does with two teens struggling to find their place in the world either due to their sexuality or their outsider status. The ending put tears in my eyes and the final sentence was just beautiful. In WWBD by Simon Morden the acronym stands for What Would Bradbury Do, which doesn't quite manifest as you'd expect it to. Morden manages to write a story that is at once humorous and sorrowful as a space commander works through his moral qualms about his mission to Mars with the aid of genre great Ray Bradbury. James Smythe's The Grand Tour was fabulous, set in a fascinating post-apocalyptic world, of which I wish we'd had more detail because it would have to be awesome and its plot was very cool with a great ending.

Despite some stories not working for me and having some really strong favourites, that doesn't mean the others left me indifferent. They were good, but didn't affect me as forcefully as the stories mentioned. Then again, with the likes of Alastair Reynolds, Adam Roberts, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, and Mark Charan Newton, to name but a few, what else could one expect? The Lowest Heaven is an excellent anthology, one that contains stories that almost demand several rereads to unpack all of their meaning. Packaged with some lovely photographs with items from the collection of the Royal Observatory Greenwich and a gorgeous Joey HiFi cover, this book is not just a lovely read but also a lovely object.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars No gold here 23 Aug 2014
By Tghu Verd - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
There a some short stories that I wish were novels...but sadly, none of them are in this anthology. Even Alastair Reynolds, clearly the headline author, gave us interesting rather than exceptional with his "A Map of Mercury".

But at least it made sense. Or I could make sense of it at least. Kameron Hurley's "Enyo-Enyo", which I think was a time travel or alternative universe story was pretty much incomprehensible. Comprehensible but feeling like it was written in 1960 was Archie Black's "Ashen Light". It might be an allegory for our Western society, I'm not sure, but whatever the point I found it a dull read with a muted emotional tone despite the topic being the murder of innocents.

And that is my take away from this anthology - muted. None of the stories are likely to stay with me and none felt particularly thought provoking. Now I understand, a short is a difficult medium to create a complete story arc, but some of the stories seemed to end prematurely, which was not at all satisfying.

The Introduction says "The Lowest Heaven demonstrates what happens when a group of today's most imaginative writers are let loose in the gigantic playground of the Solar System". Perhaps. But without that note I'd not have picked this up because not all of the stories are necessarily Solar System related. And it is also too loose a theme for anything approaching consistency with regards the outcome, so it is not as if I can say "This is great if you enjoy stories that address XXXX" where XXXX is hard science, or time travel or genetics or whatever.

With that, who is likely to enjoy this? Honestly, I am not sure. It is definitely eclectic, so if you are looking for hints of new authors to read, it is possibly worth your money. I'm not recommending it though. I've read more interesting short story collections over the last year that cost less and there is no standout story that shrieks "Buy me". And because it's shorts the "Look Inside" feature is not useful. So your are on your own with that decision, and I am very disappointed having to rate it as two stars.
4.0 out of 5 stars Some better than others 15 July 2014
By R. Leddy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Solid stories. Some better than others, but that's pretty typical for any short story collection.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars really good. 10 Mar 2014
By TC Doeh - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
really good.
some of the better stories that I've read lately. highly recommended.
i don't have time to go into detail here, but i rarely give a 5 star. This deserves about 5.5.
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is a treasure 2 Oct 2013
By adriane headley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am so excited by this anthology. It brings me many dreams and ideas. I look forward to many more treasures.
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