Nebula finalist Paul Di Filippo follows The Steampunk Trilogy
, a collection of alternate-history novellas, with Ribofunk
, a biotechnological hard-SF collection. As the radical shift of genres may indicate, Ribofunk
is astonishingly diverse in subjects and styles, even though its 13 stories make up a future history. Despite the generous number of stories, the book's quality and creativity remain high throughout. In "Brain Wars," a genetically engineered disease afflicts an Antarctic army with enough psychobiological horrors to frighten even the famed neurologist Oliver Sacks. In "The Boot," a 2060s-era private investigator seeks a bio-enhanced thief-gambler who can see the dynamics of chaos and may therefore be able to beat any odds, even those of capture. In "The Bad Splice," the PI finds himself trapped alone in the superseaweed-choked, storm-torn North Atlantic with the diabolical Krazy Kat, a "splice," or genetically engineered animal-man, who has escaped bondage and become a splice-rights terrorist. A few characters recur sporadically, but one appears in every story: the Earth, its biosphere progressively altering with every tale, until the ultimate transformation of the final story, which brings the collection, novel-like, to a tremendous, terrifying, apocalyptic climax.
Few SF writers are as imaginative, energetic, or idea rich as Paul Di Filippo, and fewer still have as broad a knowledge of science and culture. And there's no contemporary SF writer who's more fun to read. --Cynthia Ward
From Publishers Weekly
Shifting his focus from Victorian pseudoscience to genetic engineering, two-time Nebula finalist Di Filippo follows Steampunk Trilogy (1995) with a story collection that presents a mid-21st century dominated by an awareness of the primacy of protein to all life. By linking the "ribosome" (producer of cell protein) to "funk," the title suggests the collection's general theme: that those who create life should remain compassionately responsible for it. In these 13 stories (two original to this volume), "basal" humans can no longer function adequately in the world they and their ancestors have warped, and so engineered grotesques abound. The most appealing tales are "Little Worker," about an amalgamation of 12 different species (including human and wolverine) that is poignantly devoted to its negligent human master; and "McGregor," wherein a chain-smoking Peter Rabbit rescues an "epcot" full of abused "splices" from their sadistic human keeper. The previously unpublished stories play Krazy Kat, a charismatic human-feline splice, against an artificially hard-shelled Protein Policeman. Despite occasional obscurity, Di Filippo's effervescent prose can provoke both hilarity and haunting reflections on our species' possible fate. The best of these experimental tales, written between 1989 and 1995, keenly dissect the selfishness by which humanity may doom itself to extinction.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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