(Solaris Rising 2: The New Solaris Book of Science Fiction, edited by Ian Whates; Solaris, 2013, $7.99)
Reviewed by Zeke Teflon
First, a relatively minor matter: It’s unfortunate, but if you read many science fiction short story collections, you’ll often find the same stories reprinted in anthologies for the same year issued by different publishers. That holds here. While the cover doesn’t mention any particular year, the copyright page lists all of the stories as copyright 2013. So, I was a bit disappointed when I discovered that I’d already read two of the first three stories in other anthologies. (If you can remember short story titles, your memory is better than mine.)
Having said that, the stories tend toward hard sci-fi and social sci-fi; there’s a welcome absence of military sci-fi and impressionistic, word-salad tales in this collection.
The stories, overall, are as well written as you’d expect in an anthology featuring work by Nancy Kress, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and Norman Spinrad. I only stopped reading a single story part way through while muttering, “Jesus Christ, dude. Enough with the passive voice already!”
The stories I thought the best were Nancy Kress’s “More,” Robert Reed’s “Bonds,” and Nick Harkaway‘s “The Time Gun.”
Kress’s chilling tale follows Caitlin, a terrorist just released from prison, set against a backdrop of class stratification, grinding repression, and violent resistance to it. Kress’s portrayal of Caitlin rings true–she’s reminiscent of members of marxist-leninist terrorist groups, such as Ilich Ramirez Sanchez (“Carlos”), virtually the entire Japanese United Red Army, and some members of the Baader-Meinhof Gang. Like most of them, Caitlin is from an upper middle class background (her dad being the inventor of the ultimate gated-community technology), and she sees people as objects to be used and discarded in pursuit of her “revolutionary” goals. This story is all too plausible.
Reed’s “Bonds” is an amusing send-up of New Age b.s. As Reed makes abundantly clear, New Age charlatans who babble about quantum physics are often flawed human beings, and have no more understanding of quantum physics than a dog does of calculus.
Harkaway’s “The Time Gun” is a clever, high energy time travel tale, which will leave you guessing right up till the end, which has a great twist.
There’s even a straight throwback to apolitical 1950s hard sci-fi, Adrian Tchaikovsky’s well written “Feast and Famine.”
This is one of the best sci-fi short story collections of recent years, especially at the price. Recommended.
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Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia.