(Solaris Rising 3: The New Solaris Book of Science Fiction, edited by Ian Whates; Solaris, 2014, 443 pp., $7.99)
Reviewed by Zeke Teflon
This collection is a disappointment in comparison with last year’s Solaris Rising 2. It has the same orientation toward hard sci-fi and social sci-fi, though this time the stories are, overall, weaker. Last year, I made it through all but one of the stories; this year there were three: an unreadable word-salad tale, an equally unreadable stylistic throwback to 19th-century novels (written almost entirely as exposition rather than narrative–telling rather than showing), and a social/military sci-fi tale with a poorly drawn background and poorly written combat scenes.
One welcome feature of Solaris Rising 3 is that, as in its predecessors, Solaris Rising 1 & 2, there’s a welcome paucity (at least relatively) of stories with unsatisfying or nonexistent conclusions. (This is an annoying feature of short stories of all types, not just sci-fi stories: all too many end anti-climactically or just peter out rather than conclude.)
The stories I thought the best were Lara Lam’s “They Swim Through Sunset Seas” and Adam Roberts’ “Thing and Sick.” Lam’s very well written story is a taut psychological tale of the aftermath of a first-contact situation, botched because of human hubris and recklessness. Roberts’ story is another well written psychological tale, this time concerning the effects of prolonged isolation. There’s considerable humor in the first several pages, but following that the story grows increasingly dark.
The rest of the stories are competent if unmemorable.
Recommended only if you’re hooked on sci-fi anthologies or are trapped in an airport.
If you haven’t read any of the Solaris short-story anthologies, you’d do well to buy the much better Solaris Rising 2.
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Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia.