Friday, September 22, 2017

Infinity Wars, edited by Jonathan Strahan

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(Military SF) Fifteen stories that explore the future of war itself. (101,247 words; Time: 5h:37m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

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

War is Hell

Infinity Wars contains 15 original stories of which we recommend 5 (average would be 3) and recommend against 5 (average would be 3). As a result, we called it "average" overall, even though there are quite a few really good stories here.

Although the theme of "the future of war" could lend itself to a lot of topics, all but one of the stories in Infinity Wars are Military SF--even though two-thirds of the stories are anti-war and anti-military. Many of them are at such pains to deliver an anti-war message that they sacrifice plot and character development to it, with unfortunate results.

Make Love not War

The stories take the following attitudes toward the military:
  • Hate it. Soldiers are doing evil: 7
  • Despise it. Soldiers are wasting their lives: 3
  • Admire/respect it. Soldiers are heroes: 5
All of the recommended stories are from the last group, which is a little odd. It's perfectly possible to write a great story from an anti-military point of view or with an anti-war message (e.g. Catch 22), but that's not what we find in this volume. Perhaps it's just a lot easier to write good military SF if you don't actually hate the military.

Specially Recommended

"Dear Sarah," by Nancy Kress, introduces us to a young woman from a poor background whose family bitterly hates the aliens whose advanced technology they blame for the loss of their livelihoods. As a soldier, she finds herself defending those same aliens from people like her family, and she has to make a choice.

"Weather Girl," by E. J. Swift, tells of a woman in charge of a secret project to use weather as a weapon and what should have been her moment of triumph.


"Command and Control," by David D. Levine, takes us to a future war between China and India in which a clever squad leader comes up with an audacious plan to win the campaign in an unexpected way.

"Conversations with an Armory," by Garth Nix, tells how a desperate group of people try to convince a long-dormant AI to release a cache of weapons that no one had ever thought would be needed again.

"ZeroS," by Peter Watts, describes a secret project to make super-soldiers via experimental augments and body modifications so risky that only the desperate or dying will agree to it.

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5 & 4 Stories: 5;  Estimated Time: 2h:01m (36K words)
Recommended By Stories: 8;  Estimated Time: 3h:02m (55K words)
Total Stories: 15;  Estimated Time: 5h:37m (101K words)
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Rating: 5 -> Hugo-worthy

Dear Sarah by Nancy Kress  Time: 14m (ShortStory)  IssueInfinity Wars 2017
(Military SF) The new tech the aliens gave us created a golden age for some and abject poverty for others. MaryJo joins the army to get out, knowing she may end up fighting rebels who are friends or relatives.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [5]  Recommended By: RSR:5 GDozois:5
Weather Girl by E.J. Swift  Time: 26m (Novelette)  IssueInfinity Wars 2017
(Military SF) Lia’s top-secret work uses hurricanes against America’s enemies by falsifying the weather and satellite records to fool enemies into thinking no storm is coming.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [5]  Recommended By: RSR:5 JMcGregor:4

Rating: 4 -> Recommended

Command and Control by David D. Levine  Time: 24m (ShortStory)  IssueInfinity Wars 2017
(Military SF) India and China are at war in Tibet about 100 years from now. Kandiah’s team are outnumbered by the Chinese forces near Lhasa, but she makes a surprising discovery that could turn things around
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [4]  Recommended By: RSR:4 JMcGregor:4
Conversations with an Armory by Garth Nix  Time: 09m (ShortStory)  IssueInfinity Wars 2017
(Military SF) The Armory AI has been out of service for a long time, so when a group of wounded soldiers try to wake it up to assist in a battle plan, it takes a while to figure out what’s going on. Or whether to trust them.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [4]  Recommended By: RSR:4
ZeroS by Peter Watts  Time: 45m (Novelette)  IssueInfinity Wars 2017
(Military SF) Technically dead after a terrorist attack, Asante gets a new body and second chance at life, provided he serves 5 years as an experimental supersoldier.

Rating: 3 -> Average

Evening of the Span of Their Days by Carrie Vaughn  Time: 18m (ShortStory)  IssueInfinity Wars 2017
(Space Opera) Opal is a dock manager on Tennant station where starships get repaired. She struggles with shortages, unresponsive management, and now an unexpected military casualty.
Heavies by Rich Larson  Time: 18m (ShortStory)  IssueInfinity Wars 2017
(Military SF) Genetically engineered for their low-gravity planet, the colonists are very different from Earth people, but things have been very peaceful for fifty years. Then a colonist murders an Earthman, and Dexter investigates.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [3]  Recommended By: JMcGregor:4
In Everlasting Wisdom by Aliette de Bodard  Time: 19m (ShortStory)  IssueInfinity Wars 2017
(Military SF) Ai Thi serves the Everlasting Emperor by using the appeaser within her to calm people around her telepathically. Wartime shortages are making her job harder and harder.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [3]  Recommended By: JMcGregor:4
Perfect Gun by Elizabeth Bear  Time: 18m (ShortStory)  IssueInfinity Wars 2017
(Military SF) John bought a used interstellar warcraft and hacked the AI controller for mercenary work. He tells about the career he and she had  and how it all went wrong.
The Last Broadcasts by An Owomoyela  Time: 26m (Novelette)  IssueInfinity Wars 2017
(Military SF) Daja’s new job requires her to replace the actual news about the dying Caribou colony with fake news aimed at avoiding a panic. It’s not what she signed up for, and she’s not sure she can do it.

Rating: 2 -> Not Recommended

Faceless Soldiers, Patchwork Ship by Caroline M. Yoachim  Time: 31m (Novelette)  IssueInfinity Wars 2017
(Military SF) Hybrid creatures who assimilate parts from the bodies of other aliens, are on the verge of acquiring teleportation, so Ekundayo goes on a secret mission against them before it’s too late.
Mines by Eleanor Arnason  Time: 22m (ShortStory)  IssueInfinity Wars 2017
(Military SF) An ex-soldier on a colony planet who hunts for mines with a modified giant rat finds companionship in an injured soldier.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [2]  Recommended By: GDozois:5
Overburden by Genevieve Valentine  Time: 22m (ShortStory)  IssueInfinity Wars 2017
(Military SF) After seven years of non-stop war on a colony planet, Colonel Davis thinks he finally sees a way to get promoted to general and, as a side-effect, end the war.
The Moon is Not a Battlefield by Indrapramit Das  Time: 27m (Novelette)  IssueInfinity Wars 2017
(Military SF) After spending almost her whole life as a lunar soldier, Gita gives an interview to a reporter about what it was like and how she’s adapting to life in India.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [2]  Recommended By: GDozois:5 JStrahan

Rating: 1 -> Needs Improvement

Oracle by Dominica Phetteplace  Time: 11m (ShortStory)  IssueInfinity Wars 2017
(Military SF) Rita’s success in AIs for marketing leads to success in military applications. A bit too much success.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [1]  Recommended By: RHorton:5

Rating: Not Rated

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