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Jonathan Strahan – The Starry Rift

November 14, 2011

137. The Starry Rift: Tales of New Tomorrows ed. by Jonathan Strahan (2008)

Length: 532 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Short Stories

Started: 22 October 2011
Finished: 27 October 2011

Where did it come from? Barnes & Noble.
Why do I have it? What I have written in my “Why do I want this” notes section does not correspond to any actual reviews or posts that I can now find… but safe to say someone on the blogosphere mentioned it, and I saw “YA sci-fi anthology” and promptly decided I must have it. Thanks, whoever you were!
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 17 April 2010.

Worlds of tomorrow,
imagined in story form
for teens of today.

Overall Summary: I think the following quote from the prologue best sums up what this book’s about: “The futures we imagine today are not the same futures that your grandfather’s generation imagined or could have imagined.” The Starry Rift, therefore, asks a number of YA science fiction authors to provide a tale of the future – in whatever form they think it might take. The result is a collection that spans sci-fi as a genre, with spaceships and AI and nanobots, but also spans the globe and draws on a unique multicultural basis for its tales.

Story Summaries and Reviews: – “Ass-Hat Magic Spider” by Scott Westerfeld involves a kid who is selected to be part of the first colonizing mission to Mars, on which body and luggage must meet stringent weight requirements, necessitating some tough decisions about what can and can’t be left behind. I liked this one a lot, it was short and sweet and a perfect way to start a collection that’s mostly going to appeal to book nerds.

– In “Cheats” by Ann Halam, two siblings hack into the software of their favorite virtual reality games, only to find that what’s outside the system can be dangerous in reality as well. An interesting story that didn’t go the way I expected it to, although I suspect I’d have liked it more if I were either a coder or more of a gamer.

– “Orange” by Neil Gaiman was the only story that I’d read before (in the anthology My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me), but this bizarre little story of a girl whose sister becomes addicted to self-tanner is just as weird, and just as good, the second time around.

– “The Surfer” by Kelly Link is a story of a boy who is on a flight to Costa Rica, to serve as a doctor for a cult headed by a man who has been visited by aliens and who claims they are going to return. During their flight, however, news of a world-wide pandemic gets out, so they are quarantined at the airport, and can do nothing but watch and wait. This story had a lot of good ideas – maybe too many good ideas, given its length and how hard it was to summarize – but it went on for too long, and didn’t take all of those ideas somewhere fully satisfactory.

– “Repair Kit” by Stephen Baxter involves a spaceship on a test flight for a new drive, which leaves without a backup of a critical piece… but has a mysterious box that can seemingly repair anything. This was a great concept, and very funny, but either Baxter hadn’t quite thought through all the metaphysical ramifications of his device, or else he was intentionally leaving things ambiguous. (Although I suspect it was the former.)

– “The Dismantled Invention of Fate” by Jeffrey Ford is the story of an astronaut and his alien bride, torn apart by circumstance, and brought together by circumstance even more unlikely. This was not one of my favorites in the collection; the language was lofty and distant, and I just didn’t connect with it at all.

– “Anda’s Game” by Cory Doctorow is a take on the idea of “gold farming” in online multiplayer games. The heroine gets invited to join an exclusive club of players, who get sent on increasingly violent missions… although she starts to wonder if the in-game enemies she is blowing up are really the true bad guys.

– “Sundiver Day” by Kathleen Ann Goonan exists in a world where human cloning is possible, if still frowned upon, and involves a girl whose older brother has recently been killed in a war. I loved this one. It does a great job evoking its setting (the Florida Keys), a nice job of world-building without a lot of exposition-dumping, and has a really solid emotional core, especially for anyone with siblings.

– “The Dust Assassin” by Ian McDonald is a not-quite-Romeo & Juliet-type story of two warring families in a future India where AI and genetic engineering are common, and one little girl has been raised her entire life being told that she is a weapon against her family’s enemies. An interesting story with a few twists I didn’t see coming, plus I really enjoyed that this managed to be thoroughly sci-fi without being all “white men in space” about it.

– “The Star Surgeon’s Apprentice” by Alastair Reynolds involves a young boy who gains passage aboard a ship by volunteering as the surgeon’s apprentice, only to find out that the surgeries mostly involve disassembling and reassembling the part-human, part machine cyborgs that run the ship… and that that’s not even the darkest secret aboard. This story was engaging and well-written, and I liked the notes of horror story that crept in among the edges, but I also feel like I’ve seen that plot done before (in the first two episodes of Star Trek: TNG, for one.)

– “An Honest Day’s Work” by Margo Lanagan was a strange one. It’s basically a story about whaling, and a boy going to serve on the crew that strips down the carcass into useable sections, except instead of whales, it’s giant aquatic humans. This story on its own merits was fine, but it felt out of place in this collection. Most of the rest of them had a very clear path from the present to their vision of the future, but this story was never clear about what was going on, where the whale-humans came from, if it was even Earth, etc.

– “Lost Continent” by Greg Egan is a story in which refugees from the war-torn Middle East can hire drivers to take them, not to a different country, but to a different time… although the process of naturalization from refugee camps remains much the same. I liked the set-up of this world, and appreciated the fact that it was clearly motivated by current events without being explicitly political. However, it ended in a weird place, without enough resolution to the main issues of the story.

– “Incomers” by Paul McAuley is another story of cultural conflict, only this time it’s between the original interplanetary colonizers, and the new settlers, played out between a group of boys and an old man they’re pestering. I feel like McAuley didn’t bring up the differences between the two groups early enough to be entirely effective, and that it also got a little too moralizing by the end.

– “Post-Ironic Stress Syndrome” by Tricia Sullivan is a story in which future interplanetary wars are fought using duels between champions, where each part of a champion’s body is mapped to some part of the faction’s resources and territories. This story managed to have a gigantic expository info-dump in the beginning, yet still be confusing by the end. I didn’t really get how the mapping worked, or how on earth anyone decided that it would be a good idea, so it was hard for me to really get involved in the story.

– “Infestation” by Garth Nix is a vampire story, mostly, but they’re vampires created by alien technology, so that’s okay. In this world, volunteers can sign up as hunters to take out vampire nests, but the protagonist is a step above the average hunter… and a leap apart, as well. This was a bit of a stretch to fit into this collection, but it was a very engaging story, so I’ll give it a pass.

– “Pinocchio” by Walter John Williams imagines a future where celebrity is everything, and feedback is instantaneous – even more so than it is today. A boy who is a persistent internet celebrity and trendsetter must face what it takes to keep his key demographic happy, and how much of himself he’s willing to give up to make that happen. This is another story where I feel like I’ve seen a lot of its main points covered by Scott Westerfeld or Cory Doctorow before, but it was an interesting world, funny, and sympathetically told. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: I think this collection should appeal to folks who are looking for a sampling of the current state of the sci-fi genre, as well as those who like YA anthologies like Geektastic.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Stuff as Dreams are Made On, The Written World
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: If anyone ever lived a science fictional life, it was the writer Jack Williamson.

© 2011 Fyrefly’s Book Blog. All Rights Reserved. If you’re reading this on a site other than Fyrefly’s Book Blog or its RSS feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is being used without permission.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 14, 2011 10:14 am

    Heheh. Just as weird and just as good. That kind of comment really piques my interest about a short story! Thanks.

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  1. Garth Nix – To Hold The Bridge | Fyrefly's Book Blog
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