Solaris Books, 2010, 453 pages
Shine: a collection of gems that throw light on a brighter future. Some of the world's most talented SF writers (including Alastair Reynolds, Kay Kenyon and Jason Stoddard) show how things can change for the better. From gritty polyannas to workable futures, from hard-fought progress to a better tomorrow; heart-warming and mind-expanding stories that will (re-) awaken the optimist in you!
I am doing terrible with my Mount TBR Challenge. I blame my books1001 assignment. Believe me, my review of A Dance to the Music of Time is going to be epic. Because if I have to read 3000 pages, you're going to read one huge-ass review about it.
Anyway, I finally knocked one (one!) book off my Mount TBR list: Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic SF. This is a fairly short anthology of international authors, and the editor, Jetse de Vries, still maintains an "Optimistic SF Open Platform".
In general, the stories were fun to read, but few rose above average. The theme is a future that is not necessarily paradise — in fact, ironically, most futures depicted in this collection are pretty depressing — but one with hope, where things are either getting better or there is the possibility of making things better. It's all near-future, more or less realistic SF; most are not really "hard SF" stories, but there is no science fantasy or space opera.
Some of the authors are well known; many only have a few online publishing credits.
The stories are:
The Earth of Yunhe, by Eric Gregory: One of the only stories to take place off-planet. A group of colonists have settled a planet and the bureaucrats in charge, including the main character's father, are trying to administer it according to the laws of the old country, even though it appears that they have been cut off and forgotten. The main character's brother is a genius who has an idea that might save the colony, but of course they face opposition from those afraid of change and non-conformity.
The Greenman Watches the Black Bar Go Up, Up, Up by Jacques Barcia: Set in Recife, Brazil, an ex-rebel is recruited by a mysterious online group to research a new start-up.
Overhead, by Jason Stoddard: Instead of geeks inheriting the Earth, they inherit the moon and the stars.
Summer Ice, by Holly Phillips: One of the weaker stories in the collection, basically about a transplanted artist figuring out her niche in a new city.
Sustainable Development, by Paula R. Stiles: A very short story about micro-loans to African villages helping fund robots to do "women's work."
The Church of Accelerated Redemption, by Gareth L. Powell & Aliette de Bodard: An American freelance engineer in France gets caught up in a religious dispute concerning the humanity of artificial intelligences.
The Solnet Ascendancy, by Lavie Tidhar: A small Pacific island nation takes advantage of new technology to outpace its larger nation-state rivals.
Twittering the Stars, by Mari Ness: One of the more entertaining stories, though mostly for the innovativeness of the format: it's a story about a space crew sent out to the Kuiper Belt and back, told entirely in Twitter feeds.
Seeds, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: A satire of the current domination of agribusiness by rapacious corporations like Monsanto, with a more hopeful outcome.
At Budokan, by Alastair Reynolds: Jurassic Park + Metallica. This was one of my favorites.
Sarging Rasmussen: A Report (by Organic), by Gord Sellar: You will find this story amusing or not depending on what you think of Pick-Up Artists. The premise being that a PUA uses his social engineering tricks on UN officials and other important bureaucrats in the name of environmental activism.
Scheherazade Cast in Starlight, by Jason Andrew: Very short and meh story about an online revolution in Iran. Zendegi did it better.
Russian Roulette 2020, by Eva Maria Chapman: A bunch of rich American kids glued to their future-equivalent iPads and XBoxes are sent to a Russian commune, with fairly amusing results.
Castoff World, by Kay Kenyon: This is a rather sad tale, and the closest to a dystopia, though hopeful at the end, and one of my favorites in the collection. It's about a little girl living on a NORA (Nanobotic Oceanic Refuse Accumulator) after civilization has collapsed.
Paul Kishosha's Children, by Ken Edgett: A light-hearted story about a show-and-tell for African schoolchildren creating an iconic character that inspires a new space age.
Ishin, by Madeline Ashby: A pair of freelance "mercenaries" trying to do some good in the midst of warfare, revolutions, and upheaval.
Verdict: A few stories were quite good, but while ambitious and optimistic in its intentions, this is a fairly mediocre collection of near-future SF, with a variety of writers not all of whom are particularly impressive. If the theme or any of the authors really appeal to you, then it's certainly not a bad collection, but I've read much better anthologies and I wouldn't rush out to buy Shine II.
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