Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Futureshocks, edited by Lou Anders

(pb; 2006: story anthology)

From the back cover:

“Experience sensory overload in this anthology from today's masters of speculative fiction as they reveal the terrors, triumphs, and seeming impossibilities awaiting humanity in the years to come. From artificial intelligences and bioengineering to transhumans threatening to make mankind obsolete, these cutting-edge tales present a future in which every day brings shocking new developments undreamed of the day before – a future in which tomorrow never knows what may follow...”

Overall review:

Exemplary anthology.

Review, story by story:

“Shuteye For The Timebroker” – Paul Di Filippi: San Francisco, mid-twenty-first century. Cedric Swann, once wealthy, loses his status and his job because of a gambling addiction, ending up as a welfare-recipient sleeper in a (mostly) sleep-banished world. Sly, humorous and lean-prosed, this is an excellent tale. Those familiar with San Francisco (and the surrounding East Bay) should get an extra kick out the locales Di Filippi utilizes here. Highly recommended, this.

“Looking Through Mother's Eyes” – John Meaney: A womb-trapped child shares her mother's awareness. Not bad, not great, with a predictable ending.

“The Man Who Knew Too Much” – Alan Dean Foster: In Northern California, in an unspecified future, those truly addicted to the written word can download entire novels into their heads, perusing tomes as giant as Moby Dick in a couple of hours. But like any addiction, too much can be a bad thing...

Well-written, light-hearted literary romp about those readers who've taken their literary head-romps to a dangerous level. Worth your time, this.

“The Engines of Arcadia” – A time-traveler encounters schizophrenic, medieval – and possibly unvarying – futures. Solid, ironic, quirky.

“The Pearl Diver” – Kaitlin R. Kiernan: In an Orwellian society, a woman's dreams – somehow linked to the mysterious messages and packages she's receiving in real life – dramatically alter her life. Okay, if dystopian-familiar, story, with a semi-elliptical close.

“Before The Beginning” – Mike Resnick & Harry Turtledove: When four cosmologists, studying a video of the Beginning of Creation, die in front of their time-viewers (which records past events so people from the future can view them), another cosmologist takes up the case. Amusing, world-shaking events result. Laugh-out-loud satirical, inspired and original; one of the best entries in the anthology.

“Man You Gotta Go” – Adam Roberts: An A.I. being (Greensilk) is created to solve mankind's major problems. From what I read, the story tracks Greensilk over the course of the next five hundred years. I stopped reading this early on, as it bored me with its familiarity, though it seemed okay otherwise.

“Homosexual Damned, Film At Eleven” – Alex Irvine: In a theocratic military-minded society, an old man, once a genetic engineer (now a prisoner under house arrest) is forced to watch the execution of “homosexual terrorists” on his television, one of the so-called “terrorists” somehow linked to him. Provocative, okay story that would benefit from trimming – it lacks the edge necessary for this kind of work. In the hands of somebody like Richard Christian Matheson, this would be stunning.

“Contagion” – Chris Roberson: Jaidev Hark, a Middle Caste cryptogen messenger (one who briefly carries a disease strain, and its cure, in his body) is hunted by a Lower Caste thug. Thrilling, heartbeat-quick twists made this tale, which has a structure and ideas like William Gibson's short story, “Johnny Mnemonic,” a pleasure to read. One of the best stories in this collection.

“Absalom's Mother” – Louise Marley: Affecting, emotional tale about thirteen mothers who refuse to allow the military to take their children – some as young as eleven – by putting themselves forth as replacement inductees. Powerful, timely work. Again, one of the best stories in this collection.

“Job Qualifications” – Kevin J. Anderson: Berthold Ossequin, a political candidate hoping to rule the world, and his eighteen clones, take the phrase “there's no substitute for experience” to a chilling new level. Excellent, this.

“The Teosinte War” – Paul Melko: Ryan Greene, a university student, takes part in a time-travel experiment with mixed results. A wonderful pseudo-twist caps this intriguing, layered story.

“Slip” – Richard A. Metzger: Phillip K. Dick-worthy tale about a man who moves between two realities, the Slip and outside the Slip, hunting Horatio, a killer – invisible to those within the Slip – who might be more or less than he seems. Engrossing, invigorating, cool.

“All's Well At World's End” – Howard V. Hendrix: A soldier who's become a lab rat for his religious-minded (so-called) superiors turns the tables on them. Memory and amnesia, religion and unbound nature form this chatty, politically-charged tale.

“Flashes” – Robert J. Sawyer: Extraterrestrials, beaming human-enlightening information from outer space, inadvertently cause despair and destruction among those on Earth. Decent 9/11-tinged story, nothing special.

“The Cartesian Theater” – Robert Charles Wilson: Toby Paczovski, a young man living in the twenty-second century, visits the recorded personality of his dead grandfather to ask him for advice regarding Toby's recent, and possibly future, employment seeking out questionable entertainers – like Jafar Bloom, a disturbed basement dweller who puts on shows that emulate machine-born death-images. Strange, rambly tale with an unexpected finish.

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