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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Sci-Fi Collection, 24 July 2011
Killie (Armadale, Scotland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Further Conflicts (Kindle Edition)
Further Conflicts is an anthology of Sci-Fi short stories that are thematically linked by various forms of conflict. However, don't think that this is just a selection of the usual military sci-fi stories full of explosions and space battles. Many of the stories are actually low on the action front and instead focus on being thought provoking and subtle in their depiction of conflict. The range and breadth of stories held in this collection was a pleasure to see as there was stories involving AIs fleeing servitude, mutants stealing children in a decaying future, dead soldiers returning to life, the interrogation of a political prisoner, etc.

I will admit that I have actually never read any of the other work created by the authors in this collection but I actually think that is one of the main reasons why people should read anthologies such as this. It opens up some new and contemporary writers to the reader, which considering most of us can end up reading the same type of things over and over again has to be a good thing. All I know is that after reading the stories in this collection and being impressed by the high standard they all were I will be sure to pick up some of the various authors' more lengthy work in the future.

In regards to the stories themselves, it is actually hard to specify a favourite because they are all enjoyable but yet very different from each other. However, I will highlight a few because it will help show the range of stories actually present.

"The Wake" by Dan Abnett is a story full of testosterone and camaraderie as we witness a group of tough soldiers watching over the body of a fallen brother in arms and drinking to his memory. The story does involve some action though as strange happenings occur and the soldiers respond in a paranoid and cynical manner. Overall, I liked how we got to see behind the mask of a hardened solder and witnessed the brotherhood and friendship they all shared.

The next story I will highlight is "The War Artist" by Tony Ballantyne which takes us into the world of propaganda and the manipulation of information flow. It is set in a world where countries have had their infrastructures torn apart by hackers. We follow a journalist embedded with a group of soldiers who go in to secure a country that has descended into chaos following a hacking attack. It progresses at a good pace and I found the ending to be very satisfying.

The final story I am going to mention is "Extraordinary Rendition" by Steve Longworth which is set in a prison on the Moon. The back and forth discussion as an interrogator tries to obtain information from his political prisoner is thought provoking and enjoyable to read. The story is completed though by a superbly delivered ending that had an unexpected twist.

The only sad feeling I had when reading this anthology was when I finished some of the stories. The worlds created were very interesting and I really wish they could have been explored more. This however isn't anything new from many other short story anthologies that aren't set in an already developed world and to be honest I think it shows how good the stories were that I wanted more.

All in all, I enjoyed all the stories in the collection and liked the fact that each one was so very different. This book is a good way to explore and immerse yourself in the writings of various authors and hopefully find someone whose work you want to read more of. If you enjoy reading sci-fi stories set around conflict, threats and danger then I think you will enjoy this collection. In addition, if you have never tried reading conflict driven stories but are curious in giving it a try then I think this book would also be a good way to explore some of the options available.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best pure SF collection in years, 31 Dec 2011
J. Shurin "carnivore" (London) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Further Conflicts (Paperback)
There are very few tales of the military SF "status quo" in Further Conflicts. The stories all take explore alternatives to the traditional stories of heroism and glory in SF settings.

The collection kicks off with Dan Abnett's "The Wake". Mr. Abnett has examined military SF from every angle, but this low-tempo, low-key piece came as a surprise. A group of two dozen soldiers await their next assignment at a remote relay station. A popular member of their crew has just been killed in action, so in defiance of all regulations, the team treat themselves to a boozy wake.

The second story in the collection is from The Kitschies & Arthur C. Clarke Award winner, Lauren Beukes. "Unaccounted" features Staff Sergeant Chip Holloway, a soldier of the future in a situation outside the bounds of his training manual. Chip was a military liaison to the ittaca, a race of squishy alien entities - now at war with humanity. The military base is now a prison, largely off the books, and Chip's ambivalence (and occasional admiration) for the ittaca is now officially inappropriate. "Unaccounted" is simply amazing and is worth the price of the book alone.

Gareth Powell's "The New Ships" follows a savvy government operative, Ann, as she works with shadowy powers to avert a future alien attack. Her cousin, Max, has hacked his way into some naughty places, and now the government want him silenced. Ann needs to bring him in before other, rival powers do.

If you've not encountered Kim Lakin-Smith's work before, "The Harvest" provides an excellent, self-contained introduction to her stylish prose. Ms. Lakin-Smith often cites music as an inspiration for her writing and, if you'll forgive the pun, "The Harvest" is distinctly metal. The story takes place in a blighted Wiltshire school. Clouds of acid rain have ruined the surrounding countryside and poisoned the land.
If the previous stories are about more specific horrors of war, "The Harvest" is about a pervasive atmosphere of terror.

"My name is Brian Garlick and I carry an easel into battle." Thus begins Tony Ballantyne's "The War Artist", a very clever, tightly-composed story about an imperialist (US? UK?) army and its occupation of Europe. Following hacker attacks, each European country dissolves into anarchy and ruin. The army comes in to restore order, but then never leaves.

Stephen Palmer's "Brwyder Am Ryddid" fuses fantasy and science fiction to create a bizarre slipstream short. Initially established as a pseudo-medieval minstrel's tale, the story very quickly spins into something much more complex. Duelling narrators compete to tell the (slightly embellished) story of a lover's quarrel in a Shrewsbury inn and an infestation of poisonous hounds. As the tale grows, the elements of the story grow ever more science-fictional, so what starts as a Chaucerian yarn turns into a cyberpunk wrestling match.

Colin Harvey's "Occupation" puts humanity on the back foot. When aliens arrive, the human race is delighted, but the Qell and Nzaghi are displeased with the destruction of "near-sentient" species such as whales and chimpanzees. The aliens' disdain and humanity's violent reaction leads to a short and nasty war. "Occupation" takes place in the aftermath, with the world already reduced to near-barbarism by the loss of its organised infrastructure.

Eric Brown's "The Soul of the Machine" is also a sequel to his story in Conflicts, "Dissimulation Procedure". Like its predecessor, "Soul" is a space opera romp, with Ed, his engineer Karrie and the (foxy) AI, Ella, trying to evade sinister corporate spider-droids. There are laser fights, space chases and attractive robot ladies (I picture them all looking like Winona Ryder in "Alien: Resurrection). Mr. Brown is capable of doing the serious stuff when he wants, but I'm delighted to read his pulp romps as well.

"Extraordinary Rendition", by Steve Longworth, takes place in a Chinese prison... on the moon. Huang, the warden, is leading the interrogation of Li, a valuable political prisoner. It is a battle of wills between masters, as both are the top of their game. The moon makes for an intriguing location, so remote that the two men are the only human beings within hundreds of thousands of miles.

Andy Remic is at his wildest in "Yakker Snak", a dark comedy in the suburbs of the future. Poor Anne tries so hard to be normal, but her neighbours have a) noisy sex and b) noisier dogs. Between the oooh-ing and aaah-ing and YAKKING and SNAKKING, Anne's starting to lose her grip on things. Although the twist ending of "Yakker Snak" introduces a slightly unforeseen element, the real joy of the story is Mr. Remic's rapid-fire pace and attention to dystopian detail.

Philip Palmer's "The Legend of Sharrock" is a companion piece to his recent novel, Hell Ship. Sharrock is a man's-man uber-warrior from his tribe of manly-man warrior-people. The tale is from his point of view, as recited from one warrior to another. Sharrock crawls from one bloody conflict to another, spreading hatred and violence, showering himself in glory and triumph. He is the very picture of barbaric heroism, which makes the story's final twist all the more poignant.

I'm a sucker for a good submarine tale and Adam Roberts' "The Ice Submarine", provides all that and more. The story is set in an alternate present where the nuclear submarines of the Pan-Islamic People's Republic prowl the waters (kinda). The oceans, however, are too well monitored by the Western powers, so the ancient Cold War game of cat-and-mouse has now moved underneath the Antarctic ice.

The final story, Tim Taylor's "Welcome Home, Janissary", is one of the collection's longest. In the far future, humans (natural and augmented) and their alien allies are fighting a war against another alien species while Earth struggles in the grasp of tyranny. Escandala, a slave soldier fights a series of seemingly meaningless battles. She finds it hard to choose a side and is motivated only by loyalty to her youngest son - a son who is rapidly becoming something other to her as his modifications kick in.

Further Conflicts is an outstanding collection - an anthology of some of science fiction's most provocative minds, tackling one of literature's oldest topics.
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Further Conflicts by Andy Remic
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