So you're tired of grimdark sci-fi, dystopias and alien invasions and guns'n'guts military SF. You'd like to read something where the future is actually a better
place. Well, that's the premise behind this anthology of optimistic science fiction put together by Jetse de Vries. It consists of sixteen short stories by a fairly eclectic and international batch of authors, ranging from first-timers to genre heavyweights like Alastair Reynolds and Kay Kenyon.
I found the premise intriguing, with my first thought being: "If the future is so great, what will the stories be about?" Since of course a world where there are no problems isn't a very interesting one to tell stories in. But this collection is optimistic, not utopian; in almost all of the stories, the world still has plenty of problems, often worse than the ones we have today. But each story posits science and technology as a solution, though there's a bit of granola and woo mixed into a few of them. All of them are set in the near future on an Earth recognizably like ours, so there are no aliens or super-advanced technology or interstellar colonies (with one exception).
I wish I could say I loved it, but unfortunately I was lukewarm about most of the stories, and while some were pretty good, I was not excited about any of them and Shine
certainly isn't a "must-read" anthology; I can't see any of these stories becoming genre classics. Given the constraints set by the editor, there was a certain degree of sameness to most of the stories; cosmopolitan, heavily wired futures with varying degrees of economic, environmental, and social collapse wearing down the old superpowers and clearing the way for smaller nations to rise up with innovative, usually greenish solutions. This is all fine and I can see the appeal of an alternative to some global Federation of Earth which is basically a futuristic extrapolation of Western dominance, so Shine
adds a bit of diversity to the science fiction genre. I just didn't see anything radically new
or mind-blowing about any of the ideas, and the writing for the most part was competent but nothing exceptional, as to be expected from a group of mostly journeyman writers who with few exceptions have only published one novel, if that.
Among those stories in this collection that stood out for me were, unsurprisingly, those by Alastair Reynolds and Kay Kenyon (though I'm not a particular fan of either of them). Reynolds's At the Budokan
features dinosaurs playing heavy metal
, and that alone should make you want to read it. Kenyon's Castoff World
is a bittersweet tale of a young girl who lives on an artificial, robotic island created to sweep garbage out of the ocean before the collapse of industrial society.
Some of the other stand-out tales were The Earth of Yunhe
, by Eric Gregory, set on a world settled by colonists from a defunct Chinese state; Twittering the Stars
, by Mari Ness, a short story told in @tweets; Overhead
, by Jason Stoddard, about a lunar colony forgotten by Earth; Sarging Rasmussen: A Report (by Organic)
, by Gord Sellar, about a pick-up artist who figures out how to use PUA tricks for socially-conscious purposes; and Russian Roulette 2020
, by Eva Maria Chapman, about a holistic Russian enclave trying to pry a bunch of overprivileged Western kids away from their immersive online worlds.
If you'd like a bit of light sci-fi, this is a book worth reading; I just can't be more than moderately enthusiastic about it; individual stories were mostly 3 to 4 stars with a couple of '5's, but I give the anthology 3.5 stars overall because I found it somewhat lacking in scope and there just wasn't a single story so exceptional that it made the collection worth reading for that story alone.