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25 June 2007 @ 10:31 am
The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction  
I'm always a little wary of short story collections. The common "twist in the tale" is frequently unpleasant. This even more so with Science Fiction Short stories.

Fortunately the Solaris Book of New Science Fiction does not suffer too much from this. There was one deeply disturbing story towards the end (Simon Ings' "The Wedding Party") and the opening story (Jeffrey Thomas' "In his Sights") was on the macho violence side but apart from that these stories mostly succeeded without resorting to horror. On the whole I liked this collection, I was a bit doubtful at the start. After the opening story there were two (Neah Asher's "Bioship" and Jay Lake (jaylake according to the author bio) and Greg van Eekhout's "C-Rock City") whose conclusions left me going "Eh?" but then we got into the amusing "The Bowdler Strain" by James Lovegrove (whose Provender Gleed novel has been on my Amazon wish list for some time, I may well buy it now) and two excellent short stories by Paul Di Filippo and Peter F. Hamilton ("Personal Jesus" and "If at First..."). Other highlights were the moving "Last Contact" by Stephen Baxter and "The Farewell Party" by Eric Brown. I also particularly liked "Zora and the Land Ethic Nomads" by Mary A. Turzillo (this was set on Mars and the Author bio suggests that she's written several novels in this setting so I'm tempted to check one out) and "The Accord" by Keith Brooke although both of these read stylistically more like short novellas than short stories (which usually have a more distinct sense of self-containment).

Out of fifteen stories I reckon I've got one "Eeew!", four "Eh?"s of varying degrees, one too funny/post-modern for its own good, 3 "good but nothing special"s and 6 I really like (some of the "Eh?"s were pretty good too up until the "Eh?" moment - actually I think I understand what Brian Aldiss' "Four Ladies of the Apocalypse" is up to I'm just not all that interested in allegory). I reckon that's not a bad hit rate for a short story collection.

Solaris Books is a new imprint and clearly many of these authors are lined up to deliver full-length novels in the near future, in some cases explicitly in the same worlds as presented in this short story collection. So it also makes a potentially interesting "taster" collection for the lines up-coming output.