Pros: Fun, enjoyable stories
Cons: A few stories are a little dated
Rating: 5 out of 5
Kevin J. Anderson’s Selected Stories Science Fiction (Volume 1) contains a nice collection of sci-fi stories in a variety of styles and settings. Some of my favorites are military sci-fi offerings, one about a General kept alive by a military determined to keep using his unusual ability to figure out an alien enemy, and one about an Admiral who has the ability to transfer his consciousness to a volunteer if his life is threatened (again, during a difficult war with aliens). The two have very different feels. They aren’t high-octane adventures, but Anderson’s writing serves as a good reminder that military sci-fi can be good even when it isn’t action-based. Because both sets of aliens are hive-mind types, I’d expect a feeling of sameness here, but they’re quite different from each other. There’s also a story about a mining base being controlled by the disembodied brain of a Colonel who has started sliding into dementia–and experiencing flashbacks from the war. It’s interesting to see what the colonists decide to do about this when people start dying because of his actions, and this story is genuinely creepy. There’s a fascinating story set in the Dune universe, about a group of soldiers who get trapped during the Harkonnen bombardment of Atreides. It taps heavily into the mysticism side of the world. I also enjoyed a tale of two soldiers bred solely for an eternal war who suddenly find themselves trapped in a moment of peace.
There are two stories about the use of avatars–robots used to experience things and perform actions at a distance. Each one is much more about the people involved than it is about the technology. These stories made me tear up a bit, which is always impressive. Another story that wrung a few tears from me involved a company that brings extinct animal species back from the dead, including mammoths, dodos, and moas. Unfortunately, some protesters take a very dim view of what they’re doing.
In a rather dystopian tale, a candidate for the highest office on Earth uses clones in a most unusual manner in order to become the ideal candidate. Anderson demonstrates just how creative he is, here–he comes up with a wide variety of ideas for his stories and many of them are things I just never would have thought of.
A few of these tales feel a little ‘off’ as science fiction, just because they weren’t written entirely recently. So, for example, a tale involving people traveling to alternate universes mentions music cassettes. Some of the tales are slightly dated, but they’re still enjoyable to read. Overall I really enjoyed this collection, and it reminded me of what an anthology can be at its best.