Editors: Keith Brooke and Nick Gevers
687 pages • £9.99
Short stories have long been a mainstay of science fiction, but nowadays they seem to live towards the outskirts of the genre. There are still plenty of magazines publishing them, but you have to know where to look (when was the last time you saw Interzone in Smiths?) and they’re never going to get the mainstream exposure novels have come to enjoy. So anthologies such as this are a rare treasure, a chance to sample the best of recent offerings, bundled together in one package. And this one’s a goodie.
That’s not to say it doesn’t have its problems – the intro states that authors were asked to choose their own stories for inclusion, a possible mistake since their favourite may not be the best example of their work. For the first few stories this fear seems justified, much of the prose over-written or self-indulgent; there are some great ideas but no real punch, and one Antarctic-based story with potential (“Home Time” by Ian R MacLeod) is let down by a pat and predictable ending.
Don’t let this put you off though, as the stories get better the further in you get. Vonda N McIntyre’s “The Genius Freaks” is an exquisite example of world-building and storytelling, and Stephen Baxter offers up a simple but wonderfully crafted tale of modern-day mammoths. Other authors featured include Michael Moorcock, Kim Stanley Robinson and Jeff VanderMeer.
Many of the stories are fantastical in style rather than hard SF, and there’s at least one that comes close to straight horror. However this book is packed with great examples of modern short science fiction of all colours, and if you’re a fan of the form you won’t want to miss out.