This was fabulous. All but one of these stories were well worth the read. Each was completely different but I could see why they were up to win the Hugo in their category.
The only story I didn’t love was ‘Pride and Prometheus’ by John Kessel. It’s a mashup of Pride and Prejudice and Frankenstein and I did not feel it was successful at what it was trying to do. Those 2 books are so completely disparate that I don’t feel it’s possible to combine their stories and make it work. It uses one of the younger Bennet sisters, Mary and seems to put her in the Frankenstein story during part of Dr Frankenstein’s journey through England to create a mate for the monster. The monster makes an appearance, and everything of course goes terribly wrong.
Time for a small rant, I thoroughly enjoyed both Pride and Prejudice and Frankenstein. Each is a a fabulous example of the type of style it is written in. Frankenstein is a Gothic horror novel, Pride and Prejudice is a satirical send up of the romantic fiction of the time. Those do not combine well together. It felt as if Mary was thrown in there as a way to attract readers who enjoyed Pride and Prejudice, but there is none of that type of story in there. In trying to have a bit of both it succeeds at neither.
My favorites were ‘Truth’ by Robert Reed, ‘Evil Robot Monkey’ by Mary Robinette Kowal and ‘The Tear’ by Ian Mcdonald.
Robert Reed is wonderful at short stories, each is unique and always surprising. I can never see where he’s going to take the story until BAM there you are at the end. Truth is nominally a time travel story that incorporates terrorism, paranoia and the horrors of what humanity can do to itself. For fear of spoilers that’s all I can really say about that.
Evil Robot Monkey is only a couple pages long and it’s a delicious little vignette. A stellar example of how a story can be contained in just one scene and be complete.
The Tear is the final story in the book and in the introduction that the editor gives before hand they suggest a breather before diving into it. I would second that. The story is complex and requires close reading and undivided attention to wrap your head around what the hell is going on. It starts out with the question of whether or not 2 different kinds of aliens can ever truly understand each other. One race is comprised of people with 8 different personalities, the other is of people with one personality who’s bodies are made of nanites that can rearrange themselves to any appearance. From there it’s a crazy journey of one being traveling through the universe existing in both forms and yet neither.
I discovered several authors through this book that I plan on investigating further, which is a great side benefit of short story anthologies.
I would say if you like sci-fi and speculative fiction, you will find at least a couple stories in here that you will like.