BOOK REVIEW: Future Days

future

Future Days edited by  (Science Fiction Anthology, 2018).

This book of all-new Science Fiction contains 17 stories by as many authors. I found the anthology a bit uneven, which is only to be expected. I will only provide comments about the works that struck me as among the best. But I want to stress right up front that there are no complete failures among the other stories. Even the ones I wasn’t overly excited about are decent enough and might very well appeal to other readers’ tastes.

I found 3 of the stories herein truly outstanding:

“Orbital Burn” by David M. Hoenig is an involving, hard SF adventure set in the relatively near future. To combat global warming, a massive sun shield has been constructed in space and it is maintained by a space station crew of nonviolent convicts. When a major accident threatens the shield, the leader of a repair team must take risky actions, finally sacrificing his life to protect the people planetside, including his children. He’s not some unbelievably stalwart hero, yet he finds the courage to do what he must.

Johnny Pez offers up more hard SF, but set centuries farther along in a story of sub-light interstellar travel. For most of the years-long voyages between star systems, all but one of the crew is in suspended animation. That individual is selected especially because of his anti-social tendencies, his social deficits allowing him to live alone without going mad. But when the “Custodian” aboard this particular ship has to revive his crewmates and work closely with them to avert a planetary disaster, he begins to overcome his condition. How will he survive the remaining 8 years of their current mission, alone? His Captain’s decision is really no surprise, in context, but it makes for a moving ending to this involving tale.

Many centuries later on, Eric Partlow’s “Mother” is an AI gifted with human emotions and entrusted with the technology to terraform new worlds then raise the first generation of people to inhabit it from cells she’s carried to a distant star. Her orders are to avoid harm on any native life already there–in fact she’s programed to self-destruct. But what’s a mother, machine-based or otherwise to do, when it means death for her unborn children? And if she can overcome her own programing once, what’s to stop her from doing so again–maybe even becoming a threat to the kids? It’s moving stuff, though again in context the her final act of love is not any big surprise.

I found a number of other stories here only marginally less impressive.

For differing reasons, I really liked Gunnar De Winter’s story of rebellion in a genetically repressive future city, James Worrad’s colony world encountering artistically-inclined trans-dimensional aliens and Claire Davon’s “The Rescue,” where conflicted police officers must overcome their own prejudices and protect alien visitors.

Elsewhere, RB Kelly’s story capably straddles the uncertain boundary between inexplicable and mysterious SF and the supernatural. In PP Corcoran’s tale, a too-perfect and ruthlessly mechanized future is chilling realized. Meanwhile, Lisa Timpf offers an overpopulated future and a woman struggling to find a place in it that won’t drive her mad with guilt.

The remaining stories employ a full array of familiar SF tropes: cyborgs, FTL spaceship drives, psi-powers, cloning and more. It’s a very decent collection, with the stories detailed above leading the way in my estimation.

 

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