I read and enjoyed each of the 21 stories in David Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer's collection from 2008 science fiction stories. The introductions were just the right mix of author bios and pointers to other works. I particularly appreciated the inclusion of web addresses for most authors so I could find out more about them immediately after enjoying one of their stories.
My favorite six stories all had a strong character focus, using future settings and new technologies as background to the concerns of interesting people.
Carolyn Ives Gilman's "Arkfall" is a planetary romance that follows the developing relationships between crewmembers of a living submarine as it drifts through unmapped territory under an alien ocean.
Kathleen Ann Gooman's "Memory Dog" shows how the right dog can be a woman's best friend--and her best link to the past and future.
Alastair Reynolds' "Fury" reminds us that our oldest, darkest debts are sometimes paid by those we hold close.
Jeff VanderMeer's "Fixing Hannover" shows a castaway engineer's value to those who pull him from the sea--and those who come to take him home.
Mary Rickert's "Traitor" and Sue Burke's "Spiders" are each enjoyable on their own, but more so as a contrasting pair. Taking a darker and lighter view, respectively, they illustrate how a child, awash in too much information from the world, can muster the wisdom to focus on what is important. We wonder what becomes of them.
I offer my gratitude for the Kindle version that allowed me to read these stories unobtrusively during a series of boring monologues by the senior executives in my agency. Their collective misunderstanding of the smile on my face during their orations is certain to benefit my career. This collection is worth your time in similar or better circumstances.
on 15 March 2011
This was my first kindle purchase of a book to read for fun. Bad news first. I was disappointed by the following:
1. No index/navigation aid? Really? The only way to see what the stories are like is to shift your way through the whole damn book page by page or rely on shared bookmarks (which skip over sections and stories). This is very poor layout/thinking behind the kindle edition. it would not take a huge effort to fix this, and it should have been done, especially since the kindle edition at present costs more than the paperback.
2. leaving aside the details of the kindle technical issues, the quality of the stories is a bit bleah one of the reviewers on the paperback I think hit the nail on the head when he said that at the risk of sounding misogynist, he thought the stories were a bit bleah because almost half the authors were women and as we know, most SF readers and writers are slightly OCD geeky engineer types, and we don't really want to read about all the mushy feelings and characterisations. We don't give a crap. Give us a stick man with a REALLY COOL hard science on the hyper-luminal drives of the spaceship and we're happy. Several of the stories are quite descriptive and character-filled. Let me put it this way. Same story could have been written in half the space and lost none of the good points. Unless you enjoy two pages of descriptive stuff to describe the changing of seasons and moods (a la Anne Rice) then this is tedious. I prefer Pete Dexter's way of describing change of season. "It was winter."
3. Apart from that, the stories that were NOT over-long and over-descriptive and over-touchy-feely, were also nothing to write home about.
The Good parts.
There were at least TWO stories that are worth the price of the book on their own.
One is really a great story, I do not want to spoil it for you but it has to do with what sounds like a really non-interesting topic for some, but is actually a brilliant, brilliant, multi layered tale of genial complexity, subtlety and hard science too. It deals with robotics, creation and the human mind and consciousness. I will say no more so as not to spoil it, but it's brilliant and I would have gladly paid 3 times the price of the entire book just for this one.
Another quite good one is about Neanderthals being genetically re-engineered to appear in the near future and was quite good too.
I have yet to read about 35% of the remainder of the book and about 30% of it will NEVER get read because the stories are so sucky, and I would guess another 20% I speed/skim-read.
If it wasn't for the one brilliant story i would give this 2 stars at most and if you also took out the neanderthal story I would say one star, but I also have 35% of the book still to read, so it may...I say MAY hit 4 stars if there is another genial tale in it, but I doubt there is.