The anthology opens with an introduction by the editor exclaiming his disinterest and disappointment in the numerous and abundant distopian sci-fi novels that have filled-out bookshelves in the past more-than decade. He explains that this book is to set the balance straight with sci-fi that paints a brighter picture of the future. And so he opens it with a truly terrible story...
The Earth of Yunhe - Eric Gregory
Set sometime after a devastating war a couple of Chinese boys clash with their traditional father when it comes to saving the Earth. That's as much as I can get from this poorly described gibberish that does an absolutely terrible job of scene-setting or describing just what the hell is going on. The reader is never specifically told what the problem with the world is, or detailed on how the people within work or exist. Eric Gregory uses words that I know are real but in the order he writes I just cannot make any sense of it. He writes this as if it's a universe we've all been familiar with for years when really it is completely alien to us. And why are they Chinese if they are speaking English? I don't know how to pronounce these character names! Bad, just bad.
The Greenman watches the Black Bar go Up, Up, Up - Jacques Barcia
Not much of an improvement but had the potential to be interesting. Set in a future South America where everyone is constantly hooked to the internet and rarely talk face-to-face a former soldier is asked to do some spying on a suspicious new company. That's all I could get from it. Like the previous story it is full of things that the reader has no knowledge of (what is a "plasma sphere"?) and lots of gibberish techno-babble. By the end I had no idea what had happened.
Overhead - Jason Stoddard
The longest story in the collection at 42 pages. It switches between some kind of conspiracy on Earth and a bunch of isolated people on a Moon colony. Again, I just could not understand much of what was happening beyond the basics.
Summer Ice - Holly Phillips
In a hot future gardens and greenery are a necessity in the big cities. A fiesty young girl eats ice cream and has memories of winter with her sister. They eventually unveil a statue in a park. Not amazing, but at least I knew what was going on in this one.
Sustainable Development - Paula R. Stiles
A woman in Africa watches some locals prepare food with some assistance from robot spiders. Only a few pages long. Pointless.
The Church of Accelerated Redemption - Gareth L. Powell & Aliette de Bodard
Finally, a decent story. I lowly computer science geek is smitten by a mysterious man who turns out to be artificially enhanced and is keen on hacking into a secure database. A longer story but with good characters and plot to sustain it.
The Solnet Ascendancy - Lavie Tidhar
Set on some eastern island where they have a backwards version of the internet the story follows the evolution of telecommunications on the island. Borderline gibberish and hard to understand. I cannot tell you any more than this as I just did not know what was going on.
Twittering to the Stars - Mari Ness
A rather clever story told in the form of Twitter messages reading backwards in time into the past. So you begin at the end of a space mission gone awry and retroactively learn of all the troubles the crew face going right back to the start of their trip when they are excited and naïve about adventure.
Seeds - Silvia Moreno-Garcia
An evil Monstanto-like corporation creates the perfect corporate seed, only for it to backfire. Not a bad story.
At Budokan - Alistair Reynolds
Crap title. A bit of a weirder one this time, but fun and with a lot of potential. A rock promoter hooks-up with an old collegue who is keen on training a T-Rex to be a rock star, just like Denver the Last Dinosaur. More pulpy than Sci-Fi, but still one of the better stories in this collection.
Sarging Rasmussen (by Organic) - Gord Sellar
A sort of William Gibson-esque story about a tree-hugging ladies man. This is all I could make out as the rest of it is incomprehensible gibberish.
Scheherazade Cast by Starlight - Jason Andrew
In Iran a reality TV star changes the primitive culture by using social media. A nice idea, but it will never happen. A six-page story.
Russian Roulette 2020 - Eva Maria Chapman
In a realistic future teenagers are so weak and unhealthy thanks to an ubringing of online gadgets that they just stay in cyberspace permanently, until one of them meets a Russian girl who prefers living the real world. Another one of the better stories but still not up to much.
Castoff World - Kay Kenyon
In a Waterworld-ish future a little girl and her grandad survive on a floating atoll/ship thing. There's no reason given as to why the world has been stricken by a cataclysm. Eventually she finds land. No Fish-men played by Kevin Costner in this one.
Paul Kishosha's Children - Ken Edgett
A NASA scientist quits his job and goes home to Africa when his mother dies. He stays for good and uses characters that he created as a kid to educate young students. They soon have their own show and end up being so popular that Africa and the world are inspired to embrace science and think forward. Certainly the best story of the entire book.
Ishin - Madeline Ashby
Two guys in the Middle East work with drones and have ideas for them beyond surveillance. Beyond this I had absolutely no clue what was happening. They certainly did not save the best for last.
Each story is introduced by the editor, who seems to think that they are much better than they really are, and afterworded with nonsensical quotes from other writers that have no bearing on the text whatsoever. The book also features biographies of all the writers, but I couldn't care less. There are also numerous spelling and grammatical errors throughout. The balance of good/bad stories is far from 50/50. If this represents the best of optimistic science fiction give me doom and gloom any day.