Thursday, December 10, 2015

Meeting Infinity, edited by Jonathan Strahan

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(SF) This anthology comprises sixteen works of original fiction challenged to show "how we meet infinity and survive it." In other words, how will humanity cope with technology that changes our bodies. (94,900 words; Time: 5h:16m)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 5 RSR-recommended stories + 7 others out of 16

"Meeting Infinity," edited by Jonathan Strahan, published on by .

An Excellent Selection of Stories

SF Signal ran an interview with Jonathan Strahan in which he talks about the Infinity Project in general, and explains that Meeting Infinity "looks at how we as human beings will look to change ourselves to best fit into the futures we're likely to find." A fifth volume, "Bridging Infinity," will deal with giant engineering projects and is likely to be published in 2016.

Out of 16 stories, one is 5-stars and four are 4-stars, which is way above average (more than twice what we'd expect). Oddly, six are 2-stars, which is much worse than average. Read selectively, though, this is an excellent anthology.

Specific Recommendations

In Blue Lilly's Wake, by Aliette de Bodard, tells the story of two women carrying guilt over things they did during a plague that devastated the worlds of her Dai-Viet empire eleven years ago. It's rich, complex, well-organized, and packs an emotional punch. Worth five stars.

The four-star stories are also excellent reads, albeit not as moving at "In Blue Lilly's Wake."

Desert Lexicon, by Benjanun Sriduangkaew describes the suffering of a group of prisoners who were offered amnesty if they'd agree to become cyborgs and spend 90 days destroying out-of-control war machines left over from a previous war. The characters struggle to trust each other because their numbers have been dwindling.

Memento Mori, by Madeline Ashby takes place in a world where people move to new bodies when they get tired of the old ones. The narrator is unusual in that she always starts with an empty mind--for whatever reason, she doesn't care to remember her past. But something from her past apparently remembers her.

My Last Bringback, by John Barnes introduces us to Layla, who has pioneered a technique for helping Alzheimer's sufferers recover their memories. Now she applies it to herself, which may not be such a great idea.

Outsider, by An Owomoyela. The planet Se was colonized by a generation ship centuries ago, and there has been no contact with Earth in a long time when a ship from Earth appears unexpectedly. Mota, a low-caste technician, gets drafted to help because studying Earth has been an obsession of hers, and she finds herself involved in things that are much bigger than what she'd bargained for.

As ever, the three-star stories range from enjoyable to endurable, generally suffering from excess material and/or overly simple plots.

All but one of the two-star stories have the problem that they're either incomplete or simply don't tell a story. They're still well-written, and someone simply seeking a feeling from a story might still like them. (The other one suffered from too many believability issues.)

Other Reviews: Search Web,

5- & 4-Star Stories: 5Estimated Time2h:25m (44K words)
Recommended By Total Stories: 12;  Estimated Time: 4h:27m (80K words)
Total Stories: 16;  Estimated Time: 7h:12m (130K words)
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Rating: 5 -> Hugo-worthy

In Blue Lily's Wake by Aliette De Bodard  Time: 23m (7K words)  IssueMeeting Infinity 
(SF) Eleven years ago, the Blue-Lily plague devastated the Empire. Now Yen Oanh attends to unfinished business with a dead mind-ship and a living survivor.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [5]  Recommended By: RSR:5 NClarke

Rating: 4 -> Recommended

Desert Lexicon by Benjanun Sriduangkaew  Time: 20m (6K words)  IssueMeeting Infinity 
(Soft SF) The government offers freedom to prisoners who'll become cyborgs and spend 90 days destroying old war machines.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [4]  Recommended By: RSR:4
Memento Mori by Madeline Ashby  Time: 23m (7K words)  IssueMeeting Infinity 
(SF) Anika has a happy life in a world where people switch to new bodies when they get tired of the old ones. But someone is stalking her--maybe from her past, which she can't remember.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [4]  Recommended By: RSR:4
My Last Bringback by John Barnes  Time: 26m (8K words)  IssueMeeting Infinity 
(SF) Layla, an expert on restoring the memories of people suffering from Alzheimer's, finds herself restoring her own memories--for better or for worse..
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [4]  Recommended By: RSR:4 LTilton RHorton
Outsider by An Owomoyela  Time: 23m (7K words)  IssueMeeting Infinity 
(SF) when an Earth ship arrives at Se after centuries with no contact, the locals struggle to understand their strange, technophobic visitor.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [4]  Recommended By: RSR:4 NClarke

Rating: 3 -> Average

All The Wrong Places by Sean Williams  Time: 22m (7K words)  IssueMeeting Infinity 
(SF) A young Australian man regrets breaking up with a girl and chases her across time and space, trying to catch up with her and apologize. Delightful.
Cocoons by Nancy Kress  Time: 23m (7K words)  IssueMeeting Infinity 
(SF) The narrator escorts an official concerned about a disease that converts unlucky colonists into alien creatures.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [3]  Recommended By: NClarke
Exile From Extinction by Ramez Naam  Time: 20m (6K words)  IssueMeeting Infinity 
(SF) As the war between humans and AIs comes to a violent close, you and your children flee for the stars, if you can escape pursuit. A fun read.
Rates Of Change by James S.A. Corey  Time: 22m (7K words)  IssueMeeting Infinity 
(Hard SF) A fun story about a near future where doctors can transplant your brain into a designer body, and a woman whose son nevertheless manages to sustain life-threatening injuries.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [3]  Recommended By: GDozois
The Falls: A Luna Story by Ian Mcdonald  Time: 23m (7K words)  IssueMeeting Infinity 
(Hard SF) Interspersed with the narrator's account of her work on an intelligent AI for a Saturn mission, she describes how her daughter fell three kilometers on the moon.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [3]  Recommended By: GDozois

Rating: 2 -> Not Recommended

Aspects: A Galactic Centre Story by Gregory Benford  Time: 23m (7K words)  IssueMeeting Infinity 
(SF) A group of human beings fleeing "mechs" that are trying to exterminate them, come across a building their ancestors constructed before their civilization was destroyed.
Body Politic by Kameron Hurley  Time: 23m (7K words)  IssueMeeting Infinity 
(SF) Narsis interrogates opposition saboteurs, sent by a man named "Keli." Narsis has to catch Keli soon, and his best lead is an incoherent prisoner.
Drones by Simon Ings  Time: 19m (6K words)  IssueMeeting Infinity 
(Soft SF) A man describes his family problems in a future England where a plague has killed almost all the women.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [2]  Recommended By: RHorton
Emergence by Gwyneth Jones  Time: 23m (7K words)  IssueMeeting Infinity 
(SF) Romanz, a judge in the moons of jupiter, deals with a tough case involving a juvenile delinquent AI.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [2]  Recommended By: GDozois
Pictures From The Resurrection by Bruce Sterling  Time: 23m (7K words)  IssueMeeting Infinity 
(SF) Fort Lucky, Texas, has survived the super-soldiers called "zombies," but Calderon thinks it won't be long now.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [2]  Recommended By: LTilton
The Cold Inequalities by Yoon Ha Lee  Time: 15m (5K words)  IssueMeeting Infinity 
(SF) Anzhmir supervises the data stores on an interstellar spaceship. The people encoded in the data are asleep, but Anzhmir thinks there's a stowaway.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [2]  Recommended By: NClarke

Rating: 1 -> Needs Improvement

Rating: Not Rated

3 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. Hi guys - Thanks for the review. Just a quick point for awards purposes. Your length assessments are off by a bit. All of the stories are short stories, except for John Barnes's "My Last Bringback", which is a novelette for awards purposes. It just tops 8k. Best Jonathan

    1. Do you have the exact word counts? We have to estimate from the location numbers that Kindle provides, but I didn't expect them to be off by that much.

  2. This sounds great! I'll definitely be reading it. Thanks for the review!