Monday, March 12, 2007

Book Review: Fast Forward 1 edited by Lou Anders

Fast Forward 1 is an anthology of 19 stories and 2 poems by mostly established authors. Some of my favourite writers are here: Stephen Baxter, Ken MacLeod, Larry Niven, Ian MacDonald, Gene Wolf, Paul Di Filippo, Mike Resnick, and Nancy Kress, along with many other excellent authors.

The idea behind Fast Forward is to present a variety of science fiction stories, without imposing a theme on the collection. Every story in the book was enjoyable, while a few of them were outstanding..

Paolo Bacigalupi's disturbing Small Offerings shows us a world polluted and contaminated with chemicals, and some of the consequences.

I really didn't want to like Kage Baker's Plotter's and Shooters, but I did. Besides the obvious comparison to Orson Scott Card's Enders Game, it seems like just another nerds versus the jocks story that you can find in any genre, or bad teen movie. I found myself liking it even though I kept giving myself reasons not to. The ending is what really made the story for me. Happily ever after, but not really.

Stephen Baxter brings us No More Stories. It starts out being almost excruciatingly mundane, slowly builds up a sense of strangeness, and ends up showing us a future on a grand scale.

One of the things I like about anthologies is that they can introduce me to writers I'm not familiar with. I had never read anything by A. M. Dellamonica before, but her Time of the Snake has made a fan of me. It's a story of alien invasion told from the point of view of a human guiding a squad of squids. The door-to-door urban warfare will bring to mind some real life events.

Ken MacLeod tells us of Jesus Christ, Reanimator, a sacrilegious, funny story about the second coming.

Sanjeev and Robotwallah takes place in Ian MacDonald's future India. Robots and war, what's not to like? One of my three favourite stories in the book.

Mary A. Turzillo's Pride tells the story of a boy and his... cat. A very bad cat. It begins by being a slightly amusing tale of a hick, but ends with an emotional wallop.

By far the longest story in the book is John Meaney's Sideways From Now, and it was still too short. Almost two stories in one, one about a future with quantum telepathy, and one similar to Jack Vance's Dying Earth books, where magic, dying technology, and Machiavellian politics reign.

Paul Di Filippo's contribution Wikiworld combines concepts from Cory Doctorow, Bruce Sterling, and Neal Stephenson, wraps them up in his own original idea, and throws in more cultural and online references than any one person is likely to get. Pyr Books has wisely made this story available free of charge online.

I've just touched on a few of the stories available, there are many more well worth a read. If Sturgeon's Law (ninety percent of everything is crud) is true, then there are nine other anthologies filled with dreck, because this one is excellent. I look forward to more Fast Forward anthologies.

[Edit: The forward to the book states the stories are supposed to be "new, unthemed science fiction," which my tiny brain misinterpreted as meaning hard science fiction. Calico Reaction questioned this in a comment on Lou Anders' blog. I've corrected the review.]


Alyx said...


Dellamonica here, dropping in to say I'm really glad you liked "Time of the Snake." It's the second published squid story: I thought I'd let you know that the first, "The Town on Blighted Sea" takes place well after the war is over, and is up at Strange Horizons:

Steve said...

Thanks for stopping by, Alyx! I'll definitely give it a read.

And damn, wouldn't you know, I have read you before. I caught "A Slow Day at the Gallery" in one of Hartwell's "Year's Best SF" anthologies.

Alyx said...

Heh. Just by chance you're landing on all my really weird alien stories.