Galactic Empires is a collection of six short stories, each roughly 75 pages in length, that contribute towards the central theme of the title and is published exclusively by the Science Fiction Book Club in the US. Here’s the synopsis:
Peter F. Hamilton hunts intergalactic terrorists whose goal is more frightening than anyone can imagine.
Neal Asher writes a wildly suspenseful tale about two groups of citizens that despise each other—even though they live galaxies apart!
Robert Reed adds a new tale to his series of stories about a planet-sized spaceship roaming the universe.
Alastair Reynolds provides a story about a galactic empire defending itself from enemies in other universes!
Stephen Baxter continues his Xeelee saga with the tale of two empires in a tense co-existence that might be ready to explode.
Ian McDonald tells the tale of a distant waterworld, where you’ll experience his characteristic twists, turns and wild new ideas.
Filled with strange vistas, awesome technology, grand-scale conflicts and refreshingly new ideas, these widescreen tales will reignite the “sense of wonder” that got you reading science fiction in the first place!
I’m not going to do a full review of Galactic Empires, more like a general thoughts post. The main reason is that I read the first three stories last year when I bought the book and have recently read two of the other three while giving up on the last in the collection. So, here’s what I thought:
The Demon Trap by Peter F Hamilton – being completely honest, this one story was the reason I bought Galactic Empires. Set in the Commonwealth universe it details what happened when Paula Myo undertook a mission to an isolated world. My full review is here, but suffice to say that this story alone was worth the price I paid.
Owner Space by Neal Asher – finding out that not only did Galactic Empires have a Neal Asher story, but an Owner story, was the icing on the cake. I think Neal’s Owner universe is one of the best out there and anything that continues the story is well worth reading. This one is different to his previous three as it looks at a group of humans entering Owner Space while fleeing from the government rather than those already living there. Still, excellent stuff and a nice reminder that when Neal’s Owner novel comes out it may very well be the best of his novels.
The Man with the Golden Balloon by Robert Reed – set in the Great Ship setting, this story takes place after the entire ship has been mapped, or at least that’s what everyone thinks. This is much more a story within a story than an action packed adventure, but it pulls it off remarkably well. I’ve got two novels in this setting on the shelf and this story makes me more than eager to get into them.
The Six Directions of Space by Alastair Reynolds – I think Alastair Reynolds is one of the best writers of short stories in the genre – he can always put great ideas across very effectively in a short amount of space. This one is no different, focusing on what happens when a human from a parallel universe ends up in another and their reaction to the visitor. Needless to say that the story completely hooked me and was thoroughly enjoyable. Incidentally, The Six Directions of Space is being released by Subterranean Press as a limited edition hardcover for $35.
The Sear and the Silverman by Stephen Baxter – I’ll be totally honest and say that I’ve never been drawn to Stephen Baxter’s work before. I’ve read some of his shorter stuff and have mixed feelings about them, but only read one of his novels which didn’t really do it for me. I think it’s simply because of how hard it is compared to my usual stuff. This story is no exception – solid sf with hard science. I enjoyed aspects of it, but others not so much. As it’s set in his Xeelee universe it;s given me a taste of what I could expect in those novels and I have a feeling that I’ll get around to them quicker now than I would have done without reading this.
The Tear by Ian McDonald – I can’t really review this because I gave up on it after 20 or so pages. It wasn’t doing anything for me and I decided to cut my losses and read something I would enjoy rather than soldier on with this. Solid writing and descriptions, but it didn’t work for me.
In all I’d recommend Galactic Empires to anyone that enjoys space opera. With three excellent stories and one very good story this is a great collection – it’s just a shame that the last two didn’t work out the way I hoped.