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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Are we engineering the universe... or is it engineering us?, 8 Jan 2011
This review is from: Engineering Infinity (Paperback)
Just in time for New Year, a nice selection of stories to clear the head. The book contains stories by 14 different authors, and the description above is rather misleading. For the record, the editor is Jonathan Strahan, and it contains stories by Stross and Baxter (also by Peter Watts, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Karl Schroeder, Hannu Rajaniemi, Kathleen Ann Goonan, Damien Broderick and Barbera Lamar, Robert Reed, John C Wright, David Moles, Gregory Benford, Gwynneth Jones and John barnes - but not, as far as I can see, by Bear).

The stories are nicely varied - the foreword discusses them in the context of "Hard SF" but admits that not all of them satisfy the criterion in the classic sense. I have to admit I don't really care about that, I simply enjoyed them as stories - there's a dash of quantum time travel, some deep space stuff, some pessimistic visions of the future (I liked Rusch's account of a marriage falling apart against a background of creepy genetic augmentation - all at a price, of course - which tells a very human and familiar story in a new and fresh way).

The stories are all high quality, with the best easily worth 5 stars, and only a couple below 4. Those that especially stood out for me were (beware: a couple of spoilers follow) "Malak" by Watts, a sort of recast Frankenstein: Or, the Modern Prometheus (Penguin Classics) which muses on the logical outcome of increasing the independence and intelligence of a military robot drone; "Laika's Ghost" by Schroeder, where a breakthrough leading to the possibility of homemade H-bombs has more positive results than you'd think, Rajaniemi's "The Server and the Dragon" (good to read more from him after The Quantum Thief last year), Stross's "Bit Rot", set some time after his Saturn's Children, "Walls of Flesh, Bars of Bone" by Broderick and Lamar which draws together quatum physics and literary theory to achieve time travel, Benford's "Mercies" (about a kind of anti Doctor Who: a billionaire builds his own timeship and uses it to track down serial killers in other timelines) and "The Ki-anna" by Jones.

However, everything in this collection is good - I suspect different stories will appeal to different readers - and it's a good showcase for the authors if you haven't read any of their stuff yet - I will be following up several of them.

At the risk of quibbling, I had one disappointment: as far as I can see the collection is only available in paperback. This seems to be a growing trend. Nor is it printed on particularly nice paper. A real shame if you buy books to keep.
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D. Harris
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Location: Oxford, UK

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