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Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

VINE VOICEon 13 June 2007
I think that there's something in here for every science-fiction reader, regardless of their preferred sub-genre. I could not get past the first few pages of: "Confessions of Uni" by Ursula K. Le Guin; "Jon" by George Sanders; "The Take of the Golden Eagle" by David D. Levine; and "Flowers from Alice" by Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross because these stories all seemed to be more "hard science fiction" and as such, weren't really my bag.

However, the opening story "The Fluted Girl" by Paolo Bacigalupi is v. moving and concerns themes of genetic manipulation and needless surgery, the commoditisation of human beings and the constant need for entertainment. Characterisation was strong and the ending was effective.

"A Study in Emerald" by Neil Gaiman is a v. entertaining take on the world of Sherlock Holmes. As with all Gaiman stories, there is a neat twist in the end and the undertones of the world that he creates is chilling.

"Bernado's House" by James Patrick Kelly is a solid story that revolves around an anthropomorphised house, it's relationship with its owner (which brings a whole new meaning to "a warm welcome") and its subsequent relationship with a young girl.

"The Cookie Monster" by Vernor Vinge is an interesting look at notions of reality, with a nod towards The Matrix film series. The notion of people becoming computer programs and forced to run on loops is well drawn out and the idea of putting in 'bugs' that help the characters to become self-aware is v. well handled.

"Legions in Time" by Michael Swanwick was not a story that I particularly enjoyed. Whilst I normally like time travel plots, I felt that the main character of Eleanor Voight was somewhat stilted and Mr Tarblecko could have been something more than the two-dimensional character he is allowed to be. I particularly feel that the themes of master and slave were not sufficiently drawn out.

"The Chop Line" by Stephen Baxter is set far in the future where mankind is fighting a war in space and time against an alien enemy. The notion of confronting a future self is not new to science fiction, although I thought that the notion of bringing a future self to the present and making them live with the knowledge that you will stop their future from ever happening was credibly handled. I found the future version of Dakk to be more believable than the 'present' version and would have preferred to see 'present' Dakk a little less naive given her role on the ship.

"Calling Your Name" by Howard Waldrop was a story that I really enjoyed. It deals with a man who's knocked out by an electrical accident with a buzz saw and regains consciousness in an alternative world where Nixon was never President, the Quarrymen never became the Beatles and Kennedy was never assassinated (and married Marilyn Monroe to boot). The reaction of the main character to his new surroundings and more particularly the effect it has on his relationship with his family is believable and the action continues to move right on until the end.

"The Empire of Ice Cream" by Jeffrey Ford is an intelligent look at the condition of synesthesia (whereby you experience one sense by virtue of another sense - e.g. sounds become colours or feelings). The central character, William, suffers the condition but it is years before he's diagnosed. Home-schooled by his parents and v. lonely, he visits an ice cream parlour and discovers that eating coffee flavour icecream brings him a vision of a girl called Anna. As he grows up he discovers that the image is triggered by anything coffee flavoured and even better, discovers that Anna is a fellow synesthesia sufferer who can see him as well. There is a bittersweet ending to the story that I am inclined to feel is a little contrived (but that could be because I liked William so much).

"Bumpship" by Susan Mosser is a monologue told by the Manager of a Bump Ship (essentially a ship for refugees on planets that have been reclaimed by a galactically dominant ACorp). I'm not sure that the monologue form always worked and at times, it feels very clumsy as the central character has to ask questions of himself in order to move the plot forward. However, it is an interesting take on the extremes of capitalism (including the notion of planet colonists virtually being forced into servitude for 70 years in order to repay debts to ACorp) and the lengths that people will go to in order to preserve their freedom.

"Only Partly Here" by Lucius Shepard is a look at 9/11. Given that this is in essence a ghost story, it feels out of place in a collection of science fiction stories and I found the prose to be unmoving and somewhat self-indulgent. I'm not sure how much scope there is for original science fiction in the context of 9/11 in any event and this in particular, felt a little hackneyed and clumsy.
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on 20 January 2013
Great Collection - Some classics in here.

But then anything edited by Jonathan Strahan is good!

four more words required
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