It's that time of year again. No, not bath time (that's in the summer), but time to immerse myself in an array of modern, brand new SF instead of the classic variety that I usually find myself wallowing (and thoroughly enjoying).
This book marks the resurrection of the "Solaris New Book of SF" series that ran for three volumes and then ended when, I believe, Solaris changed hands and the then editor of the series George Mann left. I read the last volume in the old series (see here
), enjoyed it very much and was disappointed when I learned that the series had ended. Delighted indeed I was when I heard it was being re-launched and now in the capable hands of Ian Whates.
So, what about the stories? They were thematically and qualitatively varied as usual. Several really didn't work for me at all. Either they were too political (Ian McDonald's "A Smart Well-Mannered Uprising of the Dead" and Lavie Tidhar's "The Lives and Deaths of Che Guevara"), to alien and opaque (Stephen Palmer's "Eluna" and Tricia Sullivan's "The One That Got Away") or simply boring (Mike Resnick and Laurie Tom's "Mooncakes"). On the other hand, there were some real gems. I particularly enjoyed Dave Hutchinson's "The Incredible Exploding Man", Paul di Filippo's "Sweets Spots", Pat Cadigan's "You Never Know" and Alastair Reynolds's "For the Ages".
Ian states in the introduction that there is no common theme to be found in this collection but I did notice that several stories were making overtly political points and there were a few genre-referencing stories. I'm not particularly a fan of political SF stories unless it is done very carefully avoiding polemic and didactic lecturing. Genre-referencing can be a real turn off for me too although I did find Peter F. Hamilton's "The Return of the Mutant Worms" hilarious.
Overall, while I breezed through the collection and got at least some enjoyment out of most of the stories, I felt there were a few weaknesses that prevent me rating this higher than three stars. However, I imagine that it's largely a matter of taste. I certainly wouldn't want to put anyone off reading this.