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Engineering Infinity Paperback – 6 Jan 2011
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About the Author
Johnathan Strahan is an editor and anthologist. He co-edited The Year's Best Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy anthology series in 1997 and 1998. He is also the reviews editor of Locus. He lives in Perth, Western Australia with his wife and their two daughters. --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.
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Top customer reviews
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.
The heartbreaking "Watching the Music Dance", a story of a little girl damaged by illegal implants which boost her musical ability, could easily have been written by a modern Phillip K Dick, using science fiction as an instrument to explore current issues. In this case, this is a tale of the damage over zealous parents can inflict on themselves and their offspring.
"Mercies", by Gregory Benford, on the other hand recalls classic Asimov, with a tale of a time travelling assassin, changing alternative pasts by despatching historical serial killers before they commit their crimes.
Thirdly, Stephen Baxter mines a very British seam reminiscent of Arthur C Clarke with the "Invasion of Venus", a story of mysterious alien incursion into the Solar System, seemingly oblivious of the human race.
Moving forward (in terms of writers), "Malak", a stunningly good tale about a military drone given a conscience, is very much, in its combination of very near future and high technological focus, on the Cyberpunk playing field.
That Cyberpunk feel is also to be found in "Laika's ghost", which is additionally reminiscent of Ken Macleod or Adam Roberts, bringing in themes of post-Soviet revolutionary politics.
Probably the most outright entertainment is to be had from Charles Stross's "Bit Rot". This is an enjoyably high concept romp which could be summed up as "Cannibal Zombie Cyborgs in Deep Space". In the set up of things going awry on a starship on a generations long mission it brings to mind the works of Allen Steele, Greg Bear, or Alastair Reynolds.
Hannu Rajaniemei makes a characteristic far future contribution, describing exotic technologies in a near hallucinogenic fashion. His is a story of a star system spanning artificial intelligence undermined by an exotic dragon-like virus.
In total there are 14 stories here, not all of the very highest quality, but all certainly readable.
If you want a picture of the work of today's science fiction (and very definitely science fiction rather than fantasy) authors, this is highly recommended.