Been reading Gardner Dozois’ collections recently. This is the first I’ve ever finished completely. I think it’s a wonderful anthology with many of the truly
best stories from the previous year.
- Immersion, Gregory Benford
- Immersion describes the process where through neural implants, humans may
rideother animals mentally. The main characters are sociologists who visit a game park in Africa to ride chimps and get some insight into human nature. So far in the history described, only close primates can do this neural immersion thing. However, all is not right in chimp world, as some politics that I never understood cause the person running the show to prevent our heroes from jumping out of the chimps minds. Then he sends hunters in after them. Can they escape?
- The Dead, Michael Swanwick
- I’ve previously read Bones of the Earth and found it decent, if uninspiring. In The Dead, a company has figured out how to reanimate dead people. No soul left, but they make excellent cheap labor.
- The Flowers of Aulit Prison, Nancy Kress
- This tale puts humans on another planet populated by distant relatives. Species-wise that is. Everything there is about a
shared realityor, in other words, the common good. Criminals are shunned. Some criminals are allowed to pretend to be unshunned, if they inform on their fellow citizens. In return they are promised eventual unshunning. I thought this story was a bit lacking.
- A Dry, Quiet War, Tony Daniel
- I really liked Tony Daniel’s first story in this anthology. It’s about a time-traveling soldier. There’s a war going on at the end of time. All the soldiers are multi-dimensional. After the war is over, the main character returns to his own time. The only caveat is that if he reveals who won the war, it pretty much unravels time, and he’ll have to go back to the end of time and re-fight the war. So his resolve is put to the test when a group of deserters from the way show up to terrorize his town, attacking and killing the father of his girlfriend. It all sounds very hokey when described as such, but dammit if the story doesn’t work and work well.
- Thirteen Phantasms, James P. Blaylock
- Eh. So-so story. Main character find that when he sends an application to join an S.F. reading group advertised in a 50 year old magazine, it somehow reaches the original founders of that reading group 50 years in the past. And they begin to correspond. I don’t want to reveal the ending, but it was boring.
- Primrose and Thorn, Bud Sparhawk
- Primrose and Thorn is adventure S.F. Jupiter has been
settled. Mostly it’s floating stations in the atmosphere. Goods are dropped to a few of them via a space elevator, and transferred via sailing vessels. The sailbots are a little different from ocean boats in that they can operate in three dimensions instead of two. Anyway, some giant corporations sponsors a race. Only on of the contestants (Thorn?) runs into difficulties. Luckily for them, a shipping rig happens on them and the story chronicles the attempt to save the racers.
- The Miracle of Ivar Avenue, John Kessel
- And this story is mystery S.F. Local homicide cops find a body that perfectly matches famed but washed up directory Preston Sturges, right down to his fingerprints. Thing is Preston Sturges isn’t dead. He’s running around all over the story. Is he secretly an alien? Our protagonist unravels the mystery. The story was well-crafted and enjoyable, but it wasn’t something I look at an think
oooh Nebula, for which it was apparently nominated.
- The Last Homosexual, Paul Park
- The U.S. has broken up and a theocracy has taken over Louisiana. They’ve somehow discovered that social ills are caused by viruses and are communicable. Or so they say. So everyone who has a social ill is locked up. Including homosexuals. Too overbearing for my taste.
- Recording Angel, Ian McDonald
- Aliens are terraforming Earth. Basically, they’ve dropped big machines onto Earth which move at a relatively slow pace of about 18 inches per hour. One reporter is sent to cover the demise of a famed hotel in Kenya that stands in the path of this alien machine. Oh, and no one knows anything about the aliens.
- Death Do Us Part, Robert Silverberg
- One of the most famous S.F. authors writes a story set in a future where life can be extended indefinitely. Consequently, most marriages last only about 40 years before people move on. This story is the story of one woman’s first marriage, undertaken before she has even undergone her first life extension treatment. Her husband is some 400+ years old, with a number of ex-wives. He’s devoted to her and intends the marriage to be
to death do us part. She’s less inclined to that, spending much time daydreaming of what she will do after 40 or so years and what her future husbands will all be like.
- The Spade of Reason, Jim Cowan
- A very likable story about how Cax6ton watched Sesame Street one day as a child and learned about silent ‘e’. He then knew his name was spelled Cax6ton, but the six is silent. Anyway, the story is mostly about his pursuit of god. His chosen method is to look for English narrative in strings of random digits and letters. He pursues better and better sources of randomness over the yearsm because as most people know, random numbers in computers aren’t truly random. It’s kind of a take-off on quantum physics, where positions aren’t truly set. There are only probabilities that something is in a particular place. Which, if there’s anywhere god is going to operate in this universe, it would be there. So he waits for god to speak to him.
- The Cost to Be Wise, Maureen F. McHugh
- Set on another planet, which like the planet in The Flowers of Aulit Prison, has recently seen the return of its human forebears who lost touch with the planet years prior. While a anthropologist from earth is visiting, a neighboring tribe attacks.
- Bicycle Repairman, Bruce Sterling
- In the future, the world is covered by buildings. Several floors of one building have been firebombed, and squatters have taken up residence therein. One of them, an unlicensed bicycle repairman, received a package for an erstwhile roommate, a shady type who may or may not work in black ops for intelligence agencies. He opens the package, and it’s a cable box. It turns out to reveal the musings of the artificial intelligence program for a Senator. Only the A.I. is more or less running the senile senator. And his staff doesn’t want anyone to know, so they send in the cavalry to save their Senator and handle the repairman.
- The Weighing of Ayre, Gregory Feeley
- Set in old world Europe, this story chronicles an attempt by England to spy on Dutch lensmakers who have invented microscopes and make telescopes. England wants to see how these lenses can be used for war. Didn’t enjoy this one.
- The Longer Voyage, Michael Cassutt
- Mission is a space station. It’s original intent was to serve as an interstellar ship to explor Alpha Centauri, where SETI discovered signals 50 years prior. However, getting a Mission going is not easy to do, and most residents of the station have given up hope of ever leaving the solar system. Many do not want to even, particularly second generation residents.
- The Land of Nod, Mike Resnick
- One of my favorite authors write a Kirinyaga based tale about one of the original Kirinyaga settlers. Kirinyaga is a planet settled by expat Kenyans who want to return to the old ways of Africa. Only it turns out they can’t live without, and he exiles himself back to Earth and Kenya, which has become thoroughly modernized and which he self-righteously disdains. But a compatriot is the keeper of Ahmed, cloned from the D.N.A. of a famous elephant in the past. Thus the mundumugu hatches a plan to escape with the elephant.
- Red Sonja and Lessingham in Dreamland, Gwyneth Jones
- Enacting out a rape fantasy in a world of virtual sex.
- The Lady Vanishes, Charles Sheffield
- A female scientist in the employ of a C.I.A.-like agency invents a technology that sort of creates invisibility. The cool thing about it is I’ve seen Slashdot articles within the last year on a prototype of what this story describes.
- Chrysalis, Robert Reed
- After a war decimates Earth, a starship leaves the solar system with the last surviving humans. Run by artificial intelligence, the ship travels for several million years around the galaxy, picking up new denizens as it occasionally passes by planets with sentient life and adding to it’s increasing bulk by mining various asteroids. Everything goes wrong though when they visit a world of ice and find Earth D.N.A.
- The Wind Over the World, Steven Utley
- A tunnel back in time to the past. Silurian times in fact. Sound something like Julian May’s Saga of the Pliocene Exile series? Yup, did to me too. Silurian time is before insects and even most plant life. Just centipedes. Only thing is, the person who travelled back in time with our protagonist didn’t make it.
- Changes, William Barton
- This unassuming story follows the life of Mark Severn. He’s a basic guy, but he’s always been interested in spaceflight and follows the various space launches. I liked this story because it wasn’t really about S.F. There’s precious little of it. Just a nice little bit of technology near the end that Mark Severn shares with his great grandson while watching a space launch from his home nearby in Florida.
- Counting Cats in Zanzibar, Gene Wolfe
- I didn’t really follow this story about a woman on the run from something. The company she’s on the run from sends one of the world few robots after her, and it is nearly indistinguishable from a human. She can tell though. Why she’s running and why they want her back and why she interacts with him the way she does, I never got.
- How We Got in Town and Out Again, Jonathan Lethem
- Lethem is this year’s new flavor, having recently made it big with The Fortress of Solitude. This short story is about carnies traveling from town to town in a post-apocalyptic America and a couple of street urchins that hook up with them for one town in order to each.
- Dr. Tilmann’s Consultant: A Scientific Romance, Cherry Wilder (Cherry Barbara Grimm)
- Rosalind is a servant for the Ostrova family, who has a schizophrenic son. The family takes refuge in a sanitorium/spa for the rich where the doctor attempts to cure the son. Rosalind falls in love with the doctor. On a return visit, the Doctor is mysteriously curing the mental patients, through the help of a strange Russian bear. But then the Great War breaks out, and they must all flee. On her last return five years later, the doctor remembers her well, but doesn’t remember how he cured the many patients. He has forgotten. But Rosalind remembers.
- Schrödinger’s Dog, Damien Broderick
- Schrödinger’s Cat describes a quantum experiment. In the experiment, a cat is placed in a box. An atomic particle is also placed in the box, along with a device that kills the cat. If the particle decays (which it has a 50% chance of doing), it sets off the device. The box is then closed and sealed. According to quantum physics, until you open the box, the cat is neither dead nor alive, and both dead and alive at the same time. It is the act of observing the cat that creates the actual outcome. Except according the Broderick, it’s not really a choice between dead or alive. The true experiment with a quantum effect could result in putting in a cat, and retrieving a dog. In the story, that principle is used to send humans to alternate universes, where history is subtly or not so subtly changed.
- Foreign Devils, Walter Jon Williams
- What if War of the Worlds was set in China.
- In the MSOB, Stephen Baxter
- The last of the space pioneers dies. I didn’t get this.
- The Robot’s Twilight Companion, Tony Daniel
- Daniel’s second story in this year’s collection, but I didn’t get it. A mining robot gains some form of consciousness. So far so good. It’s on a mission to bore to the center of the earth in the Olympic Peninsula which is the center of a war between the types from Ecotopia, and descendants of loggers. Why it’s boring down I don’t know. Why it’s attempting to protect certain people I don’t know. Maybe just a bit too different for my tastes.