FORMAT: PAPERBACK (REVIEWED), DIGITAL | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Strongly themed and interesting sci-fi anthologies can be difficult to find, as most short story collections tend to go along predictable paths, presenting a selection of stories that aren’t terribly memorable. Entanglements - Tomorrow's Lovers Families And Friends draws together ten stories about how interpersonal relationships and technology can clash, as well as the notion that people’s collective fates are all tied together on some level. This is a refreshing approach to a collection, though the results are quite mixed.
We open with Nancy Kress’s Invisible People. Though it’s a tale about adoption, families and genetic alteration, it’s focus is more political than that and alas it falls short, trying to cram too many ideas into one short piece. Rich Larson’s Echo the Echo is a clever little story about how technology can preserve or alter our perceptions of each other and what they mean to us. It’s a little brief, but packs a punch. Susanne Palmer’s Don’t Mind Me explores technology and censorship; interesting and well done, though nothing new.
James Patrick Kelly’s Your Boyfriend Experience and Cadwell Turnbull’s Mediation both explore how technology modifies behaviour, but in very different ways. Both are engaging if a little forgettable.
Nick Wolven’s Sparkly Bits is plugs into the theme of the overall collection and complements it quite well; editor Sheila Williams has done a great job in getting the tone and pace of this anthology spot-on. Alas Sparkly Bits suffers from being a little too busy, blending complicated child-raising issues with technology and missing the mark. Mary Robinette Kowal’s A Little Wisdom however is superb. It’s the tale of one woman’s struggle with serious illness, assisted ably by her robot dog. Brilliantly paced, clever and heart-warming, it’s the sort of work we expect from Kowal. Another story in the collection, Sam J Miller’s The Nation of the Sick comes close in terms of storytelling, but Kowal nails the theme more effectively.
Annalee Newitz’s The Monogamy Hormone is a modern twist on the classic weird love potion fantasy story, and in this case, Newitz’s talent far outstrips the limit of the premise. It’s nice to read but it’s not a great story. Finally we have Xia Jia’s The Monk of Lingyin Temple, translated by Ken Liu. It’s a solid examination of faith and science, and is one of the highlights of the collection.
Overall this is a mixed bag of stories, but it contains some gems that will engage your mind in new ways, which is what sci-fi is for.