Editors: Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Liz Gorinsky
Genre: Science Fiction stories
Summary: A short story collection from a number of well-known science fiction and fantasy authors.
Reactions: I have become alarmingly opportunistic with my reading ever since I got my Kindle. Mostly because I've found that I can find books for free. And not just any books -- but new(ish) books that I would normally pay money for to read. Since I have this free-book craze, I downloaded this free anthology from Amazon.com and enjoyed it. I am going to write a few thoughts about each story and hopefully you can pick up the ones that sound interesting to you.
Six Months, Three Days by Charlie Jane Anders (7/10). The premise of this short story is that a man and a woman live in the regular world, but they each have a superpower. The man can see the future and the woman can see a number of different futures. The premise of the story is that they meet and date each other. It's a story about their views on free will, and their superpowers interacting. It's a pretty cool premise -- though it takes a stretch of imagination to swallow the idea of these people existing and meeting each other. The relationship takes a few turns that I feel are not quite realistic either, but overall it raises a number of interesting issues and is a pretty interesting read.
The Dala Horse by Michael Swanwick (5/10). A story about a little girl who needs to walk to her grandma in the neighbouring village and meets a fugitive on her way there. Sounds a bit familiar? Here's the twist: the girl's backpack, map, and toys are all intelligent and their meeting will lead to clash between AI superpowers that control the human world. The story has an interesting twist, but I found myself disliking the POV that the author chose for the story and I guess I just didn't care as much for this rendition of the more familiar tale.
A Clean Sweep With All The Trimmings by James Alan Gardner (9/10). A story firmly rooted in noir genre staples where a "Cleaner" type tough guy is hired to dispose of an alien body in a brothel. In the process he meets a "Doll" whom the aliens are hunting. Her specialty is becoming exactly the sort of Doll a man next to her wants her to be. It's a very tongue-in-cheek adventure and I loved the language and the resolution of the story. A very well done noir science fiction that makes me want to check out this author's other works.
Beauty Belongs to the Flowers by Matthew Sanborn Smith (7/10). Set in futuristic Tokyo, this coming-of-age tale follows the teenage girl Miho whose father is dying after being infected with nanobots. It's a story giving a perspective on teenage rebellion and self-worth in a world where technology can make anyone and anything look beautiful. The tale is a combination of a love story and learning about yourself. I think I would have liked the story better in a longer format -- the character growth was a bit too rapid for the story timeline and the ending was rather bizarre.
A Vector Alphabet of Interstellar Travel by Yoon Ha Lee(5/10). This rather strange story is a collection of descriptions of cultures of a variety of civilizations and their approach to interstellar travel. It's interesting in the variety of the imaginings, but I was somewhat hard-pressed to understand the meaning of the story. Perhaps others may like this one better.
Ragnarok by Paul Park (5/10). This was actually not a short story, but rather an epic poem set in post-apocalyptic Iceland following the traditions of epic narratives. The story is well-told, but I just didn't enjoy the epic poem medium of telling the story. Not quite my cup of tea.
Hello, Moto by Nnedi Okorafor (7/10). An atmospheric tale set in Africa where a woman mixes technology and juju to create three powerful wigs for herself and her two friends. The wig gives them powers over others, but also changes them in ways the creator didn't expect. I thought the setting made this story quite interesting as well as the mechanics of magic. The overheating wigs left me amused and the story-telling was pretty good if not in itself as imaginative as some of the other authors in the collection.
Shtetl Days by Harry Turtledove (10/10). Probably my favorite piece of work in this anthology. The premise of this novella is that Reich has won WWII and by mid-21st century it has exterminated most Jews. To remind the world of how awful things were before their reign, Germany sets up a pretend-village modeled after early 20th century Polish settlement where German actors play roles of Jews and Poles in the village. The production is set up for realism - the actors get immersed in the atmosphere day in and day out and are taught to completely ignore the tourists visiting the village. With the actors practicing the language and the culture daily, the novella examines the idea of actors becoming what they are portraying.