Thursday, 1 May 2008

‘The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction (Volume Two)’ – Edited by George Mann (Solaris Books)

There’s no question about it, short story collections are great. For a start, by its very definition you get more fiction for your money and every tale is different. There’s also the fact that you don’t have to finish a short story collection all at once, you can dip in and out as you choose and this can make a really nice break from reading a longer novel. This is what I’ve been doing, for the last week or so, with this latest collection from Solaris and (for the most part) I’ve had a great time in the process.
George Mann’s second collection of science fiction makes for some enthralling reading of other worlds and the people who inhabit them. We also get to see that science fiction isn’t just about what’s happening up there in space, it’s also very much about what the future may hold for us here on Earth. As with any anthology though not all of the stories are going to be to everyone’s taste. It’s not a case of there being anything wrong with the writers or their vision, more of a law of averages thing where no-one will like every story they read. This was certainly the case with me although there was only one story that I did not finish.
While there’s nothing wrong with going through each individual story, and saying a few words I really don’t have the time, not only are there fifteen stories but I’m also writing this at work and there are other things I should be doing (they’re not as interesting but it’s what I’m being paid for!) I figured that if I told you what my highlights were (the bad as well as the good) that should give you a good idea what you can expect to find. My favourite stories were Dan Abnett’s ‘Point of Contact’ and David Louis Edelman’s ‘Mathralon’, two tales that leave the reader in no doubt as to how cold and lonely our universe can be. ‘Point of Contact’ just edges ‘Mathralon’ with it’s blunt and realistic approach to the matter of first contact with an alien race, how arrogant is it of us to assume that alien life is interested in us and what we have to offer?
Honourable mentions go to Kay Kenyon’s ‘The Space Crawl Blues’ and Neal Asher’s two ‘Mason’s Rats’ stories. I’ve enjoyed Kenyon’s ‘The Bright of the Sky’ and her tale of technological progress and human ‘upgrading’ has made me resolve to read ‘A World too Near’ sooner rather than later. It’s a feel good tale that makes you think as well. Asher’s tales of a farmer who adopts innovative methods of dealing with a rat infestation made me chuckle and gives me a little hope for the common man in this world of bureaucracy.
As I said earlier I found the anthology to be hit and miss. Karl Schroeder’s ‘Book, Theatre and Wheel’ was a tale very well told but I was left wondering whether it should be in a sci-fi anthology, a re-read may be in order. Likewise, Michael Moorcock’s ‘Jerry Cornelius’ tale was also well written but came across as a tale that would be better appreciated by real fans of that particular character. Maybe I should have given Eric Brown’s ‘Sunworld’ more of a chance but the first couple of pages (young man heading off to seek his fortune) failed to hook me and this was the one that I gave up on.
For there to only be three stories (out of fifteen) that really failed to hit the mark is a measure of how good all the other tales are and I think there is something in this anthology for everyone. I’d recommend it to any sci-fi fan who’s after bite size chunks of genre goodness, very much looking forward to seeing where this anthology series goes next.

Eight out of Ten


Tara said...

love the solaris covers

the fantasy one they did similar to the science fiction cover with the dragon was excellent, and the mckenna story in it was brilliant

love short stories too


ThRiNiDiR said...

souns like a terrific read.