by Lou Anders (Editor)
Cover Artist: John Picacio
Review by Colleen Cahill
Roc Book ISBN/ITEM#: 0451460650
Date: January 3, 2006 List Price $14.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
In the introduction, editor Lou Anders notes that prediction is not the reason that most writers describe the future, but to provide an insight about some event or pattern of today. His contributors took this to heart, creating a myriad of futures, all of which have their roots in this present day. In "Shuteye for the Timebroker", Paul Di Filippo presents a world where the right drugs can keep an adult from ever needing to sleep again. Because of his addiction to gambling, Cedric Swann descends from a sleepless, luxurious life to that of a sleeper, a group made up mostly of indigents and wackos who refuse to take the anti-sleep drugs. The ability to augment humans also highlights Alan Dean Foster's "The Man Who Knew Too Much", where knowledge junkies take hits from illegal chipsets that can make them smarter ... or fry their brains. The effect of too much information on human scholarship, especially when it is being beamed from an alien galactic encyclopedia to a less advanced Earth is explored in Robert J. Sawyer's "Flashes". Knowledge or more rightfully, experience is the center of Kevin J. Anderson's "Job Qualifications", where the perfect political candidate is formed through the lives of various clones. All these stories show that what we know can be a dangerous thing.
Some of these stories are set in the near future and while fantastic, have a familiarity that is almost comforting. Others take us far forward, to places with almost no landmarks of our day. "Looking Through Mother's Eyes" by John Meaney presents one evolutionary path for humans, one which would answer the problems of overpopulation. Sean McMullen's hero in "The Engines of Arcadia" travels from an oppressive reign to where he hopes humans will be free. The utopia he finds seems a peaceable if somewhat dull feudal world until he stumbles on it's protection system. An artificial intelligence named Greensilk is the center of Adam Roberts' "Man You Gotta Go". Greensilk is asked to solve two problems: Fermi paradox and faster than light travel. Her solution to the latter will eventually lead to the answer for the former, but with a great price to humanity and herself.
Human beliefs and religion are not ignored in this collection, from Alex Irvine's "Homosexuals Damned, Film at Eleven" with the torment of a geneticist who might have caused his son to be condemned to death. Mike Resnick and Harry Turtledove are a bit more playful in "Before the Beginning". The invention of the time-viewer, which will show video of any point in time is a boon to researchers until several die trying to see the universe before the big bang. In contrast is Robert Charles Wilson's "The Cartesian Theater" where a twisted artist performs a theater of death, one that might painfully answer the question of the nature of the soul.
All these stories are finely crafted works that take the reader in many different directions. From the totalitarian futures of Caitlin R. Kiernan's "The Pearl Diver" and Louise Marley's "Absalom's Mother" to the ethics of influencing alternate universes in Paul Melko's "The Teosinte War", there is a multitude of forecasts, each interesting and different. Anders should be commended for his selection of authors, who all present not only intriguing futures, but well written stories, ones that will be entertaining and thought provoking.
Don't buy this book looking for predictions or prophesies: buy it for its many visions, its splendid writing and its continuation of the strong tradition in science fiction of "what if".