The Solaris Book of New SF 3

Another year, another anthology from the excellent publisher Solaris. I’ve read the first of these, missed the second (I really, really need to get it, it features some great authors), but as this is basically sci-fi short stories there’s no need to have read any of the previous ones. Here’s my thoughts on the stories we have here:
solaris-new-sf-3Rescue Mission by Jack Skillingstead
A first contact encounter with a sentient forest that turns into a rescue mission. Slightly disjointed until an explanation clears up the story. While reading it I wasn’t that engrossed, but looking back after finishing puts it in a different light. 6/10

The Fixation by Alastair Reynolds
In one universe the Mechanism is being lovingly restored by hand, while in another a device that can restore items by pushing entropy into multiple parallel universe is used to restore it. Typical Reynolds short story and yet another reason why he’s one of the best in this format. 9/10

Artifacts by Stephen Baxter
A story of one man’s goal to prove the existence of brane universes, and pinpoint their locations. Completely hard SF that missed the target for me – it felt like too big a topic for a 30 page story. 5/10

Necroflux Day by John Meaney
A steampunk story that follows a young boy as he learns things about the city that most try to forget. I liked this enough to have a look about John Meaney’s full novels, especially as a couple are set in the same world. Definitely a highlight of the collection even though it seems more fantasy. 9/10

Providence by Paul Di Filippo
In a world where humans no longer exist two AI’s travel to collect a priceless collection of just found vinyl and compact discs – the music contained on which can be equated to their form of drug. A good story, but not great – passes the time nicely though. 7/10

Carnival Night by Warren Hammond
A murder in a Largatan city is investigated by a detective – but not all is as it seems. Another good addition, plenty to get your teeth into and a great setting. Another author I’ll be checking out again. 8/10

The Assistant by Ian Whates
When the nine to five workers go home the cleaners come in – but these don’t just scrub toilets, they deal with unwanted visitors and strange technology. This story I loved. It doesn’t give any background details, it’s just a solid look at the events of one shift for the Assistant. The only thing that lets it down is the the quick decent into extended explanation at the end (which is justified, it’s just a little too much). 9.5/10

Glitch by Scott Edelman
In a future where AI live few of them like to role play as humans. Interesting premise but the prose missed the spot completely for me – it just wasn’t easy to read. 5/10

One of our Bastards is Missing by Paul Cornell
At a royal wedding Major Hamilton is part of the squad that guards the princess. When a guest disappears into think air it is down to him to get tot he bottom of it. I liked this story, the setting, characters and technology gave it that little something extra. Not the best in the anthology, but up there with them. I’d love to read more in this setting! 8.5/10

Woodpunk by Adam Roberts
A forest on the Chernobyl site has mutated into something else and a group hunting within it discover its intentions. This has an interesting idea and well written, but just missed that extra something to make it stand out. 7/10

Minya’s Astral Angels by Jennifer Pelland
Sentient beings, the Angels, have been modified from human DNA to survive vacuum and carry out specific tasks. With no rights as a species because they are unable to reproduce they are happy to continue as they are. But when Minya falls in love with them and is allowed by her mother, the company owner, to manage that section, the situation takes an interesting turn. One of the stand out stories in the collection, extremely well written and a lovely prose that carried me to the end far too quickly. 9.5/10

The Best Monkey by Daniel Abraham
A story about a a reporter on a mission to find out more information about the Fifth Layer, a company that has technology that just doesn’t seem right but works amazingly well. A good story and interesting enough – another author to check out! 7/10

Long Stay by Ian Watson
A future where air travel is so common that car parks are huge affairs with no way out unless you’re in your vehicle to stop illegal immigration – this is what happens when you’re car is missing. A strange one here and I can’t decide whether I like it or not… 6/10

A Soul Stitched to Iron by Tim Akers
When a family is killed and a girl goes missing a disowned son of the founding family with ties to the underworld must investigate. Too much like steampunk fantasy for my liking. 5/10

iThink, therefore I am by Ken MacLeod
A very short users manual for the iThink. Amusing, but not as good as it could be – a shame. 6/10

I must admit that I found this a very mixed anthology – it has some great stories that I really enjoyed while others missed the spot. One thing I can’t knock is the variety on offer, it definitely has something for everyone. Those that are set in genres and scenarios I normally enjoy were among some of the better short fiction I’ve read in a while, but those that I don’t normally read fell at the roadside. Still, a collection like this that can cater for many different tastes is a must read!

One criticism that I do have is the use of fantasy type stories in a sci-fi anthology – I’d like to have seen more recognisable sci-fi rather than the couple of fantasy-hinting-at-sci-fi stories that were present (even though I loved one of them). However, there are a good few authors that I need to check out now simply because of this anthology – and a collection that can do that is a hit in my book!

4 thoughts on “The Solaris Book of New SF 3”

  1. I loved this anthology though I would rate the stories somewhat differently

    Rescue Mission by Jack Skilignstead **** 1/2 – should have been longer, but super-ending

    The Fixation by Alastair Reynolds **** – just average Reynolds; can do much better

    Artifacts by Stephen Baxter *****
    – that’s Baxter hard sf at its best

    Necroflux Day by John Meaney *****
    – made me go back to Tristopolis after the disappointing Bone Song

    Providence by Paul Di Filippo *****
    Di Filippo in form

    Carnival Night by Warren Hammond ***
    ok, but not a KOP fan

    The Assistant by Ian Whates ***
    average

    Glitch by Scott Edelman **** 1/2
    prose a bit stilted

    One of our Bastards is Missing by Paul Cornell ***** +
    superb and top story of the anthology – would love a novel; the Hamilton story in Fast Forward 2 – free online – is good but this one is better

    Woodpunk by Adam Roberts ***
    under-average; Roberts can do so much better

    Mynia’s Astral Angels by Jennifer Pelland *****
    superb prose – made me buy the author ss collection

    The Best Monkey by Daniel Abraham *****
    I wonder why I do not like Abraham’s Long Price since I like his ss

    Long Stay by Ian Watson ***
    under-average; Watson can do much better

    A Soul Stitched to Iron by Tim Akers *****
    superb – the upcoming Veridon novel is a big asap for me; though I agree it’s fantasy

    iThink, therefore I am by Ken MacLeod ***
    average – MacLeod can do much better even at short length; check Wolf 359 in NSS

  2. I apologize for the full post here, but I had no idea that Robert will put the review up today – I sent him the review a while ago and then he juggles them to have them up whenever best for the book…

    I made a “bookshelf” on Goodreads just to remember what reviews I’ve done for FBC :)

    I once told Robert – oh, I remember this book I liked a lot and I wanted to review, now I see the US pub date is close, so I plan to review it and he told me that actually I sent him the review several months ago, and to avoid this kind of oops I made that shelf mostly for me, but anyone can see what I reviewed for FBC in one place :)

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