This isn't so much a review as a series of experiences associated with this book. The kinds of things I would have left in the Updates if I weren't so limited on character count.
November 28th, 2012
Amazon cancelled my order for this book so I was kind of surprised to open a box this morning and find it hiding under a replacement for the teapot broken over the weekend.
And no packing slip.
So, uh, in the interest of disclosure, I have no idea who paid for this.
Updated December 10th, 2012. This book keeps being not where I am so I have made no progress. I have, however, seen a review pop up in my feed that covers each story and then summarizes the collection as:
Overall 5 excellent stories (Corey, Baxter, Reynolds, Barnes, McAuley) two with enough stuff to keep me reading and remembering them for a little while at least (Owomoyela, Sterling), two that I passed fast through and forgot but were readable (Jones, Rajaniemi) and four basically unreadable for me (Cadigan, Bear, McDonald/Covey, Rusch) though the surprise would have been to find them readable.
I am having a hard time not parsing that as "SciFi is for white dude; ladies, GTFO." Maybe I should be all "yay diversity" because An Owomoyela's story wasn't considered forgettable or unreadable, but I'm not feeling it.
Updated December 11th, 2012. And I'm probably not feeling it for good reason. There's currently only 1 other review for this book, which includes:
The bonus for me is when I find a new author that I want to read more of and he is An Owomoyela. His story "Water Rights" I highly recommend, a real standout story in a great collection.
/me rages silently and pointlessly. Because it would have been completely impossible to have written that opinion in either a way that didn't refer to gender or one that used the same pronouns as used in the author bio IN THE COLLECTION.
Updated December 14th, 2012. Quite enjoyed both Cadigan's and Bear's contributions. Both felt nostalgic in different directions. The body modification/enhancement vs. norms backdrop of Cadigan's is very true to her cyberpunk roots without being at all cyberpunk. And it seemed like a more interesting take on some things examined in Falling Free. And Bear's is the kind of beautiful strange I love, even if she passed up a perfectly good opportunity for a welding scene.
Updated December 23rd, 2012.
James Cory, as expected, does an excellent job, even if it follows a format I universally fail to appreciate. I think this is a good story to introduce a reader to his work without the commitment of a novel of Leviathan Wake's length. I really enjoyed the recent novella, Gods of Risk, but I'm not sure how it would read without the background of the novels already in my head. Drive, however, is far enough in the past to both function as a stand alone and not spoil anything in the series.
The Road to NPS is the weakest link so far. Nothing exactly wrong with it, but it felt like there was enough ground to cover (no pun intended) that it would have worked better as a novella length piece. Like this was the abridged version.
John Barnes' story is damned near perfect. <3<3<3
Updated January 2nd, 2013
McAuley's story has a lot of extraneous information in the first two pages. After that, it's interesting enough that I'll read another Quiet War story if I happen upon one, but not enough that I'm eager to hunt any down.
Kris Rusch's contribution I had to think about for a couple of days. On the surface, it's a day in the life of story about a retired military pilot at his new job. But it's actually about how systems are set up to look like meritocracies, but actually reinforce the status quo. Where there's an official set of rules and regulations to get a position, but there's also an unofficial set of standards applied to people you just know aren't right for the job. So, say you get a woman who seems like she might be qualified, best keep changing the rules until she fails. Bonus points if you can accuse her of "cheating." Well done.
Gwyneth Jones's contribution is also damned near perfect. <3<3<3
Rajaniemi's is also a lot of fun. I'd like to meet Tyche again in a few decades.
I'm genuinely confused by Strahan's decision to put the Baxter and Reynolds stories right next to each other. One is about how a man with great vision accidentally gets some people killed while constructing something magnificent, but focuses on how his achievement limits the career options of a woman and how that impacts her life. The other is about how a man with great vision accidentally gets some people killed while constructing something magnificent, but focuses on how his achievement limits the career options of two women and how that impacts their lives.
Updated January 2nd, 2013
I thought Water Rights was the name of a totally different An Owomoyela story that I listened to on a road trip last year.
It seemed like an odd fit for this anthology, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised that it isn't that story. I can be disappointed, though. This one starts off so very strongly and seems so interesting, but the last couple of pages were a huge letdown. I think the point is supposed to be something about how necessary art is to the human experience, but it totally comes across as what first appears to be a business woman with a difficult ethical dilemma turns out to just be a future Imelda Marcos. That could just be me, though.
And then, the Sterling story. Oh, goodness gracious, the Sterling story. What is the deal with anthologies starting out strong and then ending on shit? Are we expected to read the first story, the contribution of our favorite author, and then set these volumes aside? This story isn't a tenth as clever as it thinks it is. Reading it was an exercise in teeth grinding. It was difficult when turning the pages to simply turn them and not tear them out and light them on fire. It brought what was easily a 4 star collection down to just passing at three. The world would be a better place if this collection had ended a story sooner. I don't think I am overstating my case here.