The Final Frontier by Neil Clarke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
3.5 stars, rounded up to 4. Some good stories. Some not so great stories. But generally the quality was good and I can recommend this anthology.
– MONO NO AWARE, KEN LIU , ~18 p., ★★★★★½
– THE FIREWALL AND THE DOOR, SEAN McMULLEN, ~30 p., ★★★★★
– SEEING, GENEVIEVE VALENTINE, ~12 p., ★★★★★
Story reviews below are in reverse order of the book.
THE ISLAND, PETER WATTS, ~36 p., ★★½☆☆
You sent us out here. We do this for you: spin your webs and build your magic gateways, thread the needle’s eye at sixty thousand kilometers a second.
Good beginning, but the author lost me along the way. The potentially sentient lifeform they found promised interesting developments, but just vanished into thin air. The story ending about the son was just weird and unsatisfying. I missed a red thread and an ending that tied up the loose ends.
GLORY, GREG EGAN, ~24 p., ★★★☆☆
An ingot of metallic hydrogen gleamed in the starlight, a narrow cylinder half a meter long with a mass of about a kilogram.
A very abstract beginning. I skimmed past most of that science-tech babble, I confess. I liked the story that followed the info dump.
“There’s more to life than mathematics,” Joan said. “But not much more.”
Math was always one of my best subjects at school, but still… too much! Math Fiction? Mathematical SF?
It was ok, nice idea of a vaguely Star Trekky set-up without the Prime Directive and more cloning and uploading of consciousness. Plus that hard SF thing with the needle that I skimmed… Did I miss the big reveal, aka Brig Crunch? It probably just flew right over my head.
The ending was a bit wishy-washy for me. Too devoid of emotion.
Can be read for free here: https://outofthiseos.typepad.com/blog…
SEEING, GENEVIEVE VALENTINE, ~12 p., ★★★★★
After it was over, they pulled her from the sea.
I was very confused at first. Something pre-apocalyptic? Maybe a dystopia? I felt the urge to go and study astrophysics, to understand what was going on. It took a moment, but I ended up really liking this. Not an easy story.
I think this is a story you need to read twice to make sense of it. Layers upon layers. In retrospect, skimming the story a second time, I am upgrading this to 5 stars. A lot going on for a mere 12 pages!
Can be read for free here: Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 50, November 2010
About the author: https://www.genevievevalentine.com/ab…
THE WRECK OF THE GODSPEED, JAMES PATRICK KELLY, ~48 p., ★★☆☆☆
„Colorful pilgrims travel to new worlds until their ship’s artificial intelligence begins to act strangely.“ I was pretty much skimming from the start. The story just held no interest for me. There was no plot, just some vignettes about various topics. It was all very superficial.
THE MIND IS ITS OWN PLACE, CARRIE VAUGHN, ~24 p., ★★★★☆
“Carrie Vaughn is best known for her New York Times bestselling series of novels about a werewolf named Kitty who hosts a talk radio show.“
I really liked that series! But it seems as if she is more of an SF author than UF, right?
“If someone locked you in a room full of crazy people, was there any chance that you weren’t crazy?“
Well, that is the question. How delusional or crazy is our MC here?
“But some of us are the next step in evolution.”
And wouldn‘t that be cool… Not telling you, what exactly, sorry. I enjoyed this!
Story excerpt here: https://web.archive.org/web/201610101…
SAILING THE ANTARSA, VANDANA SINGH, ~30 p. (Tot. 432 p., 72%), ★★☆☆☆
“The protagonist, a woman called Mayha, undertakes an unusual journey in a story involving physics, the environment, biology, communication, and myth. And there’s an enormous tree-like being that is central to everything.“
Space exploration. Very imaginative world, however the writing did nothing for me. Too slow, too contemplative. The in-between stories and/or myths did not interest me.
Found this online and it is very fitting: “notions of coexistence, acceptance of the past and future as fellows, existing hand-in-hand in the present“
About the author: https://scroll.in/article/894504/thes…
GYPSY, CARTER SCHOLZ, ~60 p., ★★¾☆☆
“When a long shot is all you have, you’re a fool not to take it. —Romany saying“
Earth is doing badly. Overpopulation, rising sea levels, etc., and we haven‘t learned a thing. So a few people take a very, very long shot indeed.
Lots of potential, interesting premise, but too little good storytelling, repetitive and brief, way too much science babble. The ending is depressing as hell and makes the whole venture pointless. Thanks for all the fish, sorry you had to die for naught! „Fuck you“ indeed. Is the ending supposed to be a HEA? Kick in the nuts, more like…
Interview: Carter Scholz on “Gypsy”
Novella can also be found in a separate edition: Gypsy
PERMANENT FATAL ERRORS, JAY LAKE, ~18 p., ★★★★☆
Maduabuchi St. Macaria had never before traveled with an all-Howard crew. Mostly his kind kept to themselves, even under the empty skies of a planet.
A story involving the Fermi paradox. With addition of some altered, almost immortal humans. Is Anybody Out There?
Well-written, easy to read. I liked it.
Can be read for free here: Lightspeed Magazine July 2018, Issue 98
THE FIREWALL AND THE DOOR, SEAN McMULLEN, ~30 p., ★★★★★
I was in the living room with my family when the Argo made its flyby of the double star Alpha Centauri.
Good entertainment, worthy of a full novel and then some. The virtual Ashford could be a cousin of muderbot, although it did not have a lot of page time. I identified with the MC so much. Sweet ending. Loved the analogy of the door held open.
A neat idea, a well-done story of space exploration, and a strong piece of advocacy for it – Lois Tilton, Locus Online
TWENTY LIGHTS TO “THE LAND OF SNOW” EXCERPTS FROM THE COMPUTER LOGS OF OUR RELUCTANT DALAI LAMA by MICHAEL BISHOP, ~54 p., ★★½☆☆
COMPUTER LOGS OF THE DALAI LAMA-TO-BE, AGE 7
I liked the voice of our reluctant Dalai-Lama-to-be as a child, aboard her generation ship. The teenager was ok, the older iterations lost my interest. I skimmed the latter part of this.
The world building lacked in depth for me and the musings of our MC did not grab my interest. There was no decent plot and the question if she really was the reborn Dalai Lama was not explored in a captivating way. I couldn‘t tell if she cared. I didn‘t.
Story can be found for free here: https://www.baen.com/Chapters/A978145…
THE VOYAGE OUT, GWYNETH JONES, ~18 p., ★★★¾☆
“Do you want to dream?”
Wow, that was really depressing! A not-so-far-away, digitally transformed future without civil rights or liberties. A set of condemned criminals (to that system, not ours just yet) preparing for their final voyage. Really, really depressing. But cool as well. Wouldn‘t have minded to find out how they fared after their voyage out.
Part of the White Queen books by the author: https://www.goodreads.com/series/5595…
Also part of this quartet of stories: https://aqueductpress.blogspot.com/20…
The author‘s recap of this particular short story made me laugh. Love the Gruffaloes.
DIVING INTO THE WRECK, KRISTINE KATHRYN RUSCH, ~54 p., ★★★★☆
“We approach the wreck in stealth mode: lights and communications array off, sensors on alert for any other working ship in the vicinity.“
„We don’t face water here—we don’t have its weight or its unusual properties, particularly at huge depths. We have other elements to concern us: No gravity, no oxygen, extreme cold.
I love the wreck diving analogy, aka comparison to scuba diving. Greed is a recurring theme in this story. They find something in this wreck. Is it worth the risk?
“The award-winning “Diving into the Wreck” novella marked the first step in a large journey for New York Times bestselling writer Kristine Kathryn Rusch.“
I will certainly look more closely at this author. This was fun to read. Although I find it hard to believe that they haven‘t managed to develop snag-proof fabric that far into the future.
This made me think of The Expanse. Hard hitting, unforgiving space. And Event Horizon. Creepiness in space.
There is a 300+ pages long book by the author by the same name, so I assume this might be a novella that was expanded into said novel. Just a guess.
THE DEEPS OF THE SKY, ELIZABETH BEAR, ~12 p., ★★★★☆
“Stormchases’ little skiff skipped and glided across the tropopause, skimming the denser atmosphere of the warm cloud-sea beneath, running before a fierce wind.“
Beautifully imaginative world. Sky-mining storms in a gas giant. Aliens dropping in.
2013 Locus award finalist.
Can be read for free here: https://io9.gizmodo.com/sky-mining-is…
or here: http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/bear_…
THREE BODIES AT MITANNI, SETH DICKINSON, ~18 p., ★★½☆☆
The ideas behind the story are interesting. I just didn‘t like the execution. Too abstract, too talkative, too little doing for my taste. But the central theme of the story is something you could debate hotly for hours. Uploaded consciousness, curtailed consciousness, colonization, expansion.
Originally appeared in Analog Science Fiction and Fact issue 06|15
SLOW LIFE, MICHAEL SWANWICK, ~18 p., ★★★★☆
“It was the Second Age of Space. Gagarin, Shepard, Glenn, and Armstrong were all dead. It was our turn to make history now.” –The Memoirs of Lizzie O’Brien
I really liked this. I was immediately deeply immersed in the story and identified with Lizzie from the first moment. Great, vivid descriptions of Titan. Loved the concept and have to leave it at that, as I don‘t want to give anything away. The ending felt a little abrupt.
Can be read for free here: http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fic…
Reading the author spotlight, that goes with this novelette, was fun as well: http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/non…
SHIVA IN SHADOW, NANCY KRESS, ~48 p., ★★★★☆
… much of her work, concerns genetic engineering.
In this case we have a similar topic with a different premise—uploaded consciousness… And how we communicate with each other. What makes us tick, what causes us to behave differently, where do we divert from the path and why. The story was well told with a great plot twist that caught me by surprise. Sad and bittersweet ending.
RESCUE MISSION, JACK SKILLINGSTEAD, ~12 p., ★★★☆☆
“Michael Pennington floated in Mona’s amniotic chamber, fully immersed, naked and erect, zened out. The cortical cable looped lazily around him. Womb Hole traveling.“
The beginning sounded pretty exciting. Pilot with body modifications (gills!!!), merged to his ship. Assuming that Mona is his ship… There are hints to pilot-ship personal dynamics that are not really elaborated upon. The romance/personal relationship wasn‘t really there. The story was ok, but it didn’t explore anything deep enough or to a satisfying level.
MONO NO AWARE, KEN LIU , ~18 p., ★★★★★½
“The world is shaped like the kanji for “umbrella,” only written so poorly, like my handwriting, that all the parts are out of proportion.“
“At the end of the cable hangs the heart of the Hopeful, the habitat module, a five-hundred-meter-tall cylinder into which all the 1,021 inhabitants of the world are packed.“
It‘s the end of the world as we know it and the survivors are on a generation ship. This story is about how they got there and what happens next.
Wow, beautiful story. I cried. The story is very much about the needs of the many, the few and the one. Fascinating, Mr. Spock! What makes a hero? A great look at the differing views of East and West, a holistic understanding of the world and the many, juxtaposed to that one hero.
– 2013 Hugo Award for Best Short Story, winner
– 2013 FantLab’s Book of the Year Award for best Translated Novella or Short Story, winner
– 2013 Locus Award for Best Short Story, finalist
– 2013 Theodore Sturgeon Award, finalist
Story can be read for free here: http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fic…
A JAR OF GOODWILL, TOBIAS S. BUCKELL, ~ 24 p., ★★★★☆
“You keep a low profile when you’re in oxygen debt.“
A world where aliens have patented pretty much everything. Think Monsanto in space. Great imagery. I would like to find out more about this world and its inhabitants. A short story with potential for more. I am intrigued by the Compact and the concept of Friends. I wouldn‘t mind to read more stories set in this world or by the author.
The story can be read for free on Clarkesworld where it was published originally: http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/bucke…
I just found this info online:
“As of September 2011, Buckell is working on a stand-alone novel titled Infringement, adapted from his short story “A Jar of Goodwill,” which was originally published in Clarkesworld. The novel will be published by Tor, sometime after the independent release of Apocalypse Ocean.“
The info comes from this interview: https://web.archive.org/web/201204280…
I looked around and could not find a book by this name, so I guess he hasn‘t written it yet.
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