- Mass Market Paperback: 448 pages
- Publisher: Solaris (Oct. 25 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781907992094
- ISBN-13: 978-1907992094
- ASIN: 190799209X
- Product Dimensions: 10.6 x 2.8 x 17.1 cm
- Shipping Weight: 200 g
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,257,688 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Solaris Rising: The New Solaris Book of Science Fiction Mass Market Paperback – Oct 25 2011
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About the Author
Ian Whates is a director of both the Science-Fiction Writers Association and the British Science-Fiction Association. He is the proprietor and editor of NewCon Press. His novels The Noise Within and The Noise Revealed are published by Solaris, he has also written City of Dreams & Nightmare and City of Hope & Despair.
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Here is the table contents while below I will talk about the stories in the order I read them rather than in the way they are arranged in the anthology. As 2010 and especially 2011 have been years when I read considerably less short fiction than usual, I wanted to make sure I won't get bogged down again so I went straight to my favorite writers, while leaving for a more cursory read the ones I had very little expectation based on past experience with their style.
Introduction, Ian Whates
A Smart Well-Mannered Uprising of the Dead, Ian McDonald
The Incredible Exploding Man, Dave Hutchinson
Sweet Spots, Paul di Filippo
The Best Science Fiction of the Year Three, Ken MacLeod
The One that Got Away, Tricia Sullivan
Rock Day, Stephen Baxter
Eluna, Stephen Palmer
Shall I Tell You the Problem with Time Travel? Adam Roberts
The Lives and Deaths of Che Guevara, Lavie Tidhar
Steel Lake, Jack Skillingstead
Mooncakes, Mike Resnick and Laurie Tom
At Play in the Fields, Steve Rasnic Tem
How We Came Back from Mars, Ian Watson
You Never Know, Pat Cadigan
Yestermorrow, Richard Salter
Dreaming Towers, Silent Mansions, Jaine Fenn
Eternity's Children, Keith Brooke and Eric Brown
For the Ages, Alastair Reynolds
Return of the Mutant Worms, Peter F. Hamilton
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: I first read the Peter Hamilton story which is the last and while short and not really sf, it works very well as a self-parody - famous writer that penned the hugely popular and quite explicit sf door stopper series Day's Twilight (!) gets in trouble over a long ago magazine submitted story - and the Adam Roberts story which features another crazy explanation of a sf trope, this time the paradoxes of time travel and has the expected superb prose and characters, while not much later I also read the Alastair Reynolds story which contained the author's trademark serious cosmological stuff interspersed with human interest that has made him the leading hard sf voice of our time. This story reminded me how much I missed a Reynolds novel for almost two years now as Terminal World has been published in early 2010.
In addition to the trio above, the stories by Eric Brown/Keith Brooke and Jaine Fenn respectively were also excellent. A world that offers essential immortality to the rest of the human race at a price for its human inhabitants and an expedition into the alien unknown that turns out to involve deep human motivations coupled with great prose and characters added these two stories to the A++ top tier ones of the anthology.
Overall I would say that Adam Roberts Shall I Tell You the Problem with Time Travel? is my favorite story of the anthology, but all of these five are stories that reminded me again why I love science fiction in the short form too!
In the next tier of interesting stories that I greatly enjoyed and for which the style worked well are: Rock Day by Stephen Baxter, Eluna by Stephen Palmer, Sweet Spots by Paul di Filippo and Yestermorrow by Richard Salter. Another familiar author theme - the end of the world from sfnal not supernatural reasons from S. Baxter, a bittersweet coming of age story in the author's far future biotech milieu from S. Palmer, the usual partly funny, partly serious offering that P. di Filippo is known for and a vigorous tale of time travel/near future end of the world (sort of!) by new author for me Richard Salter were all stories that are recommended and add to the reasons Solaris Rising was a big success for me.
The stories by Ian Watson How We Came Back from Mars, Ken McLeod, The Best Science Fiction of the Year Three and Steve Rasnic Tem, At Play in the Fields were ok but at least in the Watson and McLeod case far from their best and more of a filler/by the numbers stuff; still both are excellent writers and even their filler is decent so while the take on big government conspiracies that are featured in both did not quite gel, they were still quite readable. At Play in the Fields which features aliens and advanced biotech was quite interesting but it was too short on its own and it also stopped short of feeling complete.
Of the rest of the stories, five were from authors I tried several times and their prose never worked for me (Dave Hutchinson, Jack Skillingstead, Tricia Sullivan, Mike Resnick here in collaboration with Laurie Tom, not that it helped anyway and Pat Cadigan) and while I read all just to do my duty, I have to say that I completely forgot them almost before finishing them as the magic of writing that makes one recall what a story is about simply was not there for me. However if you are a fan of any of these authors, you may have a different opinion so give them a try!
Finally, two disappointments from authors I generally enjoy: A Smart Well-Mannered Uprising of the Dead, Ian McDonald is a sfnal zombie story and as such it bored me to no end, while The Lives and Deaths of Che Guevara, Lavie Tidhar is a story that talks about a communist murderer...
Overall Solaris Rising (A+, highly recommended) is a very strong eclectic anthology with something to please any lover of contemporary sf.
Note: This review has been first published on Fantasy Book Critic and all notes and references are to be found there
With this anthology there were 19 shorts so at $7 when I bought it, each short is considerably cheaper than the established writers general one-story price (check out Peter F Hamilton's "Footvote " or Charles Stross' "A Tall Tail: A Tor.Com Original" to see what I mean). So it felt reasonable value on that score. And the authors are current - I purchased "The Fifth Science Fiction Megapack" and even at 99 cents those shorts from the sci-fi vaults were not good value to me!
The stories were the usual hit and miss affair, and that totally depends on your taste of course. I particularly enjoy hard sci-fi so the opening short, Ian McDonald's "A Smart Well-Mannered Uprising of the Dead" should have left me cold. It didn't. This is social-oriented sci-fi and it was witty and inventive. And given that facebook.com hosts around 30 million dead people, perhaps it's not that far fetched?
Dave Hutchinson's "The Incredible Exploding Man" brought to mind a bleaker, more confused Dr Manhattan from "Watchmen". Strangely, it had a 1950's vibe to me and I did not enjoy it so much. I could not empathize with the characters which is usually a mood killer when you are reading a story.
Paul di Filippo's "Sweet Spots" was cheeky and fun, a kind of geeky underdog does good story that hummed along nicely and concluded well.
I am not universally a fan of Ken MacLeod's novels and "The Best Science Fiction of the Year Three" did not change my opinion either way. The writing is very competent, but this gathering of sci-fi spooks in Paris seemed to serve no narrative end.
Tricia Sullivan's "The One that Got Away" left me completely cold. Not exactly sure why, but it seemed to be making a social or relationship point too subtle for me to grab hold of. Certainly it was not 'hard' sci-fi, though there is a technological underpinning to the scenario. Mostly it felt hurried, as if Sullivan had a more expansive scope in mind for the story and had to shoehorn it into too few pages.
Stephen Baxter's "Rock Day" created similar (lack of) emotions to "The Best Science Fiction of the Year Three". It is competent for sure, but as the explanation for a malfunctioning Groundhog Day is revealed, it came across as somewhat pointless and mostly sad.
I am not sure why, but Stephen Palmer's "Eluna" reminded me of Iain M. Banks "Look to Windward" in the way technology and class are layered into stratified societal structures. But where I enjoyed Banks' novel, I did not enjoy Palmer's. I think that was because the protagonist came across as insipid and needy, characteristics I have no desire to read about.
Adam Roberts gives an interesting take on the consequences of time travel in "Shall I Tell You the Problem with Time Travel?" and I liked it. His prose is not as polished as MacLeod or Baxter, but the idea was simple and the arrogance and hubris of the main character more than believable.
Lavie Tidhar's "The Lives and Deaths of Che Guevara" is the type of story that I would not normally read, and unfortunately I did not like this short. The idea is interesting, but the presentation was as simplistically idealistic as communism itself. I just could not relate this to the real world and for some reason it seemed a bit too 'try hard', like something a final year literature student might develop as they explore the mechanics of writing.
Jack Skillingstead's "Steel Lake" is another social sci-fi story. In fact, written slightly differently, it need not be sci-fi at all, and it's the type of interpersonal story that does not engage me. A dissolute son disappoints his father who tries everything he can to restore their broken relationship. Call me shallow, but I just could not muster enough care factor in their fumblings to enjoy this.
Mike Resnick and Laurie Tom collaborated on "Mooncakes", a short that is asking 'What does culture actually mean?' They give it a good shot, but the whole thing is a bit schmaltzy and it gnawed at me that the Captain of an ark ship would be mooching about at home the day before final systems check. Surely she'd be down at Mission Control being poked and prodded by a medical team and well guarded by a platoon of the best and brightest?
Steve Rasnic Tem's "At Play in the Fields" was annoying for a very different reason to any of the other stories - words were run together, so it opens with "After years ofreptition" and periodically kept up the words-run-together-error. As a story I felt it was bland and did not go anywhere much. Kind of "Planet Of The Apes[HD]" with alien plants instead of apes and no Statue of Liberty shock at the end.
Ian Watson's "How We Came Back from Mars" was surreal. Or satirical, I'm not sure which. The premise is a take on "Capricorn One", but in this case the astronauts go to where they were meant to. It wasn't particularly funny and while the motivations of the characters is explained in detail, their paranoia seemed both misplaced and their decisions pretty much insane, but overall it was harmless enough.
Pat Cadigan's "You Never Know" hinted a subtext of "Men In Black" that never arrived. In all honesty, I'm not sure what was really going on in this short. It seemed alternative universe stuff, but perhaps not. Not that the writing was bad, it wasn't, but it's one of the few here that made me feel I was wasting time reading it because it seemed to be saying so little.
Richard Salter's "Yestermorrow" seemed tainted by "Minority Report", with that same "You can't dodge the future" aspect as an investigator tries to avoid their own fate to solve the impossible crime. I liked Salter's take on this though there was not enough length to sufficiently build both the tension and a cohesive explanation of how the detective works out what's going on. I could see it making a good novel, and that's uncommon for shorts.
Jaine Fenn's "Dreaming Towers, Silent Mansions" is OK, with far from home explorers seeing shadows on an alien world. Apparently this short was inspired by a dream, and certainly there is scant scientific underpinning for what is going on, more fantasy and wish fulfillment taken to its infinite end than anything else.
"Eternity's Children" is another collaboration, this one by Keith Brooke and Eric Brown, and I enjoyed their mix of science and society, as a good man is asked to undertake what he feels to be a difficult, perhaps immoral, mission. Of course, events are not in his control and his realization of this, and his slow understanding of the consequences, are particularly well told.
I hold early Alastair Reynolds novels as to-be classics, and "For the Ages" has some of the same high-tech, high-aggression feel as "The Revelation Space Collection", though he has been raising my 'suspension of disbelief' quotient with more recent novels and this short has a similar problem. Basically, I could not hold with humans so far from home holding true the way they did. Obviously I'm too cynical or lazy for such a mission, but that little niggle undermined "For the Ages" for me.
And finally we get to Peter F. Hamilton, one of my favorite high-tech sci-fi authors. Master of the Space Opera genre, creator of the psychic 'Everyman' soldier, "Greg Mandel" and probably the most consistent writer I can think of, he gives us a very much more low key effort with "Return of the Mutant Worms". Think an intro chapter for a Simon Templar novel and you would be on the right track with this short. But if you are expecting weapons, FTL and personal energy fields, you've be as disappointed as I was.
So, that's my wrap. I think overall I came out cost-neutral with "Solaris Rising". Nothing outstanding, but no stinkers either. It reminded me that it easy to whip up a short but harder to write an excellent one because you need to fit a tight enough story arc to fit into the space; add sufficient action to hook the reader; and ensure the conclusion has something useful to say. It is a measure of the difficulty that even terrific authors like those showcased here can't always get it right.