Thursday, April 13, 2017

Cosmic Powers: The Saga Anthology of Far-Away Galaxies, edited by John Joseph Adams

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(SF) The theme of this anthology is stories about entities with godlike powers, similar to characters in some of the Marvel comics. (101,950 words; Time: 5h:39m)

Rating: ★★★★☆ Rich in Great Stories

"Cosmic Powers: The Saga Anthology of Far-Away Galaxies," edited by John Joseph Adams, published on by .

Godlike Sense of Wonder

There are eighteen stories in this anthology, of which 13 are original and the other 5 are reprints. Of those 5, Rocket Stack Rank already reviewed four of them over the past two years, so we’ve included those four in our analysis.

Out of the 13 original stories, we recommend 5 (average would be 2) and we recommend against 2 (average would be 3). This is astonishingly good, and for that reason, we recommend the anthology as a whole.

Of the 5 reprints, we already reviewed 4. We recommended none of them, and recommended against three, which is surprisingly bad. We're not quite sure what to make of that, other than to say that we definitely liked the original fiction much, much better.

Godlike Doesn’t Always Mean Gods

The theme of the anthology is entities with godlike powers which inspire a sense of wonder, but that takes many different forms. We found the following:
  • AI: 4
  • Aliens: 8
  • Engineering: 3
  • Weapons : 2
In other words, roughly half of these visions are of things we made that appear godlike. The rest are things we meet that seem godlike. It's a good mix.

Specially Recommended

Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance, by Tobias S. Buckell, takes place far in the future where an indentured human intelligence embodied as a robot has to make a difficult moral decision in the aftermath of a war--a decision made more difficult because he's bound by robotic laws and doesn't have completely free will.


A Temporary Embarrassment in Spacetime, by Charlie Jane Anders, turns two loveable space rogues into unwilling saviors of the galaxy. Funny but serious enough to be satisfying.

Unfamiliar Gods, by Adam-Troy Castro and Judi B. Castro, shows us just how terrifying gods can be and how dangerous it can be to make deals with them.

Bring the Kids and Revisit the Past at the Traveling Retro Funfair, by Seanan McGuire brings a respectable, down-on-her-luck impresario to a Dyson Sphere where her unscrupulous clone sister has left a host of problems.

The Chameleon’s Gloves, by Yoon Ha Lee takes place in the same universe as his novel "Ninefox Gambit," but no familiarity with that book is required to enjoy this tale of honor, betrayal, and a device that can destroy stars by the millions.

Other Reviews: Search Web,
John Joseph Adams Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB

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5- & 4-Stories: 5;  Estimated Time: 2h:01m (36K words)
Recommended By Stories: 11;  Estimated Time: 3h:40m (55K words)
Total Stories: 19 (18 reviewed by RSR);  Estimated Time: 5h:50m (105K words)
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Rating: 5 -> Hugo-worthy

Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance by Tobias S. Buckell  Time: 20m (ShortStory)  IssueCosmic Powers 2017
(Space Opera) After its side won the space battle, an indentured robot with an uploaded intelligence finds an important refugee who makes a dangerous offer it can’t refuse.

Rating: 4 -> Recommended

A Temporary Embarrassment in Spacetime by Charlie Jane Anders  Time: 35m (Novelette)  IssueCosmic Powers 2017
(Space Opera Humor) Sharon and Kango have to go back to their home worlds to capture an ultimate weapon that threatens the galaxy, or else they’ll never achieve their dream of opening a restaurant.
Bring the Kids and Revisit the Past at the Traveling Retro Funfair! by Seanan McGuire  Time: 17m (ShortStory)  IssueCosmic Powers 2017
(Space Opera) Nora and Doc bring their show to a Dyson Sphere, but their lack of funds forces them to sell some attractions to people they probably shouldn’t be dealing with.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [4]  Recommended By: RSR:4
The Chameleon's Gloves by Yoon Ha Lee  Time: 26m (Novelette)  IssueCosmic Powers 2017
(Space Opera; Machineries of Empire) Rhehan used to be a Kel supersoldier before being kicked out. Now the Kel needs Rhehan for a dangerous mission—offering the only coin Rhehan might consider.
Unfamiliar Gods by Adam-Troy Castro and Judi B. Castro  Time: 21m (ShortStory)  IssueCosmic Powers 2017
(Horror) Faster-than-light travel needs divine assistance, but the gods are capricious. A starship cast into unknown space has no choice but to try to deal with unknown gods—and they are usually the worst kind.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [4]  Recommended By: RSR:4

Rating: 3 -> Average

Diamond and the World Breaker by Linda Nagata  Time: 24m (ShortStory)  IssueCosmic Powers 2017
(SF) 12-year-old Diamond gets involved with a licensed terrorist group and manages to drag her mother into it too.
Golden Ring by Karl Schroeder  Time: 26m (Novelette)  IssueCosmic Powers 2017
(Far-Future SF) By the time Eos turned her light back on, Sagitta was an iceworld, so she sent an avatar to see if she could atone to any of the survivors.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [3]  Recommended By: GDozois:4
Infinite Love Engine by Joseph Allen Hill  Time: 23m (ShortStory)  IssueCosmic Powers 2017
(Science Fantasy) Aria just has a few days to save the whole universe from being swallowed up by Zarzak, the infinite love machine.
Our Specialty is Xenogeology by Alan Dean Foster  Time: 15m (ShortStory)  IssueCosmic Powers 2017
(Space Exploration) A four-person prospecting crew stumbles on a giant alien ship. Should they explore it at risk of waking it up?
The Deckhand, the Nova Blade, and the Thrice-Sung Texts by Becky Chambers  Time: 16m (ShortStory)  IssueCosmic Powers 2017
(Space Opera) The narrator is a deckhand on a military vessel fighting a hopeless fight against aliens who are gradually destroying humanity.
The Dragon that Flew Out of the Sun by Aliette De Bodard  Time: 12m (ShortStory)  IssueCosmic Powers 2017
(Space Opera) As a child, Lan learned her family lost their world when a dragon came out of the sun, but now she wants to know the real truth.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [3]  Recommended By: GDozois:5
Wakening Ouroboros by Jack Campbell  Time: 14m (ShortStory)  IssueCosmic Powers 2017
(Far-Future SF) On the vast surface of a Dyson Sphere, the last man meets the last woman, and she proposes one last big adventure.

Rating: 2 -> Not Recommended

The Frost Giant's Data by Dan Abnett  Time: 16m (ShortStory)  IssueCosmic Powers 2017
(Military SF) Dwire needs to evade security and sneak into a data repository to extract details of a treaty whose terms might spell ruin for humanity.
The Universe, Sung in Stars by Kat Howard  Time: 06m (ShortStory)  IssueCosmic Powers 2017
Orrey maker decides to try working with real stars and galaxies.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [2]  Recommended By: SFRevu:4
Tomorrow When We See the Sun by A. Merc Rustad  Time: 22m (ShortStory)  IssueCosmic Powers 2017
(Space opera) Mere, an executioner android of the Principality, becomes curious about its barely-remembered past, putting itself in danger.

Rating: 1 -> Needs Improvement

(Fantasy Science) Young scientist trying to develop time travel encounters an alien intelligence that lives outside of time.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [1]  Recommended By: NClarke
Warped Passages by Kameron Hurley  Time: 19m (ShortStory)  IssueCosmic Powers 2017
(Generation Ship SF) The Fleet was still a few generations from the target star when the anomalies hit and stranded it in space. The narrator may just be a kid, but he/she has a plan to escape.

Rating: Not Rated

The Sighted Watchmaker by Vylar Kaftan  Time: 11m (ShortStory)  IssueCosmic Powers 2017
Not reviewed by Rocket Stack Rank (reprint).
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review []  Recommended By: RHorton:5

2 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. An excellent anthology, not just for the high quality of stories but for having a strong theme and executing it.

  2. Yes, I often wonder why some anthologies have no problem with stories that don't fit their theme. Like stories in The Djinn Falls in Love that don't have any Djinn in them.