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I enjoyed reading all 19 stories in this collection. I confess that The New Space Opera first volume is still on the shelf by my bed, only a few stories sampled. The difference was having this one in my iPhone Kindle app, so I could read away at it during train rides or boring staff meetings. I'm grateful for the entertaining diversion.

My five favorite stories in this book made me rethink my approach to my job:

"The Lost Princess Man" by John Barnes demonstrates how to conduct a job interview with a con man in a high-tech dictatorship.

"Defect" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch shows how to resign from a job as an undercover assassin--and how to resign ourselves to the consequences.

"Chameleons" by Elizabeth Moon reminds us what it is like to babysit a pair of bratty kids.

"The Tale of the Wicked" by John Scalzi evokes those feelings we sometimes have that our office computers are really running things--and that their errors are intentional.

"The Far End of History" by John Wright emphasizes the dangers of becoming romantically involved with someone at work--especially when different versions of both of you play so many different roles that it's hard to keep them straight.

Two more stories weren't among my favorites, but get an honorable mention for succeeding as "space opera" while making fun of it. Cory Doctorow's "To Go Boldly" made me laugh harder about Star Trek than I have since reading Terry Bisson's Galaxy Quest. And Mike Resnick's "Catastrophe Baker and a Canticle for Leibowitz" pokes enjoyable fun at the handsome heroes and shapely sirens of truly bad space opera. Can't wait to see the comic book version.

It's a good collection. Read and enjoy.
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on 11 June 2015
New Space Opera volume one, which I finished recently, left me entertained but underwhelmed. I couldn't escape the sinking feeling that I'd been hoodwinked by marketing spin, the brand appeal of a recognised name above a familiar, pre-existing title. The sort of thing that keeps Jennifer Anniston in film parts.

I really, really shouldn't have bought both volumes at the same time.

Aside from the obvious couple of big names - Neal Asher and Bruce Sterling, as well as clunking fantasy doorstopper Tad Williams - I don't think it's unfair to say that New Space Opera 2 is really the B-list outing.

I can at least honestly say that out of the gate the stories in volume two show much more - which is to say "some" - evidence of being New Space Opera. Opening story "The Island" features a creditable Big Dumb Object with recognisable elements of Deep Space and Deep Time, a contrary Ship Mind and a cast of wired-up blue-collar space grunts. Neal Asher's offering "Shell Game" reads more like his most recent work, so it's not his best, but you're never in doubt this is widescreen space adventure and he hits the same grubby, blue-collar aesthetic, includes a couple of augmented immortals, and plays on the Squids in Space thing which I'm never entirely sure is a running gag or has made the grade all the way up to meme.

The real stumbling block comes with material like Defect by remorseless mid-lister Kristine Kathryn Rusch. It's a novelised bottle episode of some forgotten seventies TV show. Her lead character sports a black tunic hemmed with silver foil and wanders the corridors of a lawless space station called "NetherRealm" - named, presumably, after a forgotten online fantasy MMOG. She's a deadly space assassin forced to confront the realities of motherhood when the evil SpaceCorp sends a second deadly space assassin - how many can there be? - to kill her cover identity's family. The characters and storytelling are weak, and it's barely space opera, let alone "New Space Opera".

The editors' introduction leaves a sour taste as they try to weasel round the issue of how widely volume one missed its sub-genre mark, and volume two has the same Trades Description credibility gap.

Some of the stories here waddle more convincingly, and some of the stories quack more in tune, but this isn't the book about ducks you're looking for.

Go and buy some Iain M. Banks.
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