This is an unabridged audio collection of the best of the best science fiction prose originally written in 2008 by current and emerging masters of the genre as narrated by top voice talents. Exhalation, by Ted Chiang, tells the story of a world totally unlike Earth where mechanical men use the gas argon as air, replacing their lung tanks daily from an underground well. Exhalation won both the 2009 British Science Fiction Association Award for best story and the 2009 Locus Award for the best short story. The Ray-Gun: A Love Story, by James Alan Gardner, tells the story of a boy who discovers a ray-gun that affects his life in unanticipated ways, both good and bad. This story won the 2009 Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. In Stephen Baxter s Turing s Apples two brothers reluctantly work together to decode an alien signal picked up by a radio telescope on the far side of the moon. In a homeage to H.P. Lovecraft, a black naturalist, just before World War II, investigates the biology of shoggoths (blobs of jelly) on the New England coast in Elizabeth Bear s Shoggoth s in Bloom. A scientist slowly goes mad trying to prove that the distant stars are made of diamond and that matter is just light slowed down in Jeffrey Ford s The Dream of Reason. In Kij Johnson s 26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss, a woman buys a traveling monkey show that pretty much runs it self as all the monkeys know what they re doing. A steel company will do what it takes to prevent two scientists from releasing the secret of making carbon nanotubes in The Art of Alchemy by Ted Kosmatka. In Paul McAuley s The City of the Dead, the town constable in a settlement on a planet in the Sagittarius arm of the Milky Way befriends a woman who researches dangerous hive rats. A genetically enhanced psychopathic secret agent battles the Rebirths for the survival of the human race in Robert Reed s Five Thrillers. Finally, in Fixing Hanover, by Jeff VanderMeer, a man reluctantly repairs the remains of a mechanical man that washed up on a beach and may be a link to his enigmatic past.
This is my favorite as it surprised me through the ending. In some ways it is a shorter telling of 'The Use of Weapons' by Iain M Banks, without nearly as much drama in the telling. However Reed's protagonist remains convinced of his purpose all the way to the bitter end. There hasn't been such a hard-headed assassin such as this character since Colonel Jessup. Except nobody carts this hero away. With what we have been dealing with in covert arts literature, with the inevitably burned out and dissolute assassins employed to the extreme a la Jason Bourne, here is finally one with humankind's best interests at heart who never wavers. Thus we know him to be psychopathic, and ourselves all too willing to go quietly into oblivion.
The Dream of Reason
Brilliant concept, to show the scientistic and the parallels between the possession of world changing ideas and madness. Really fun to read having just finished 'The Invention of Air'.
Not much science in this fiction. Felt like summer fiction.
The Art of Alchemy
This one's a great movie script. It has beauty, brains, intrigue, money, power and a BMW. It's about an invention so revolutionary that the world's most powerful corporation lives in fear of its discovery and the two young lovers that find it.
City of the Dead
This is the most well rounded of the stories, I think. It has just the right quality of feminine heroism. A woman sheriff on a distant planet finds a mad woman anthropologist who has studied a colony of hive rats all of her life. Deep in that colony of cat-sized creatures with deadly claws and ant-like efficiency is an artifact that alien overlords are interested in. They hire thugs to fetch it against the treaty that makes this a neutral planet, and so the sheriff investigates what's going on with her strange hermetic friend.
This is a better Contact story than Contact, and delivers a nice set of lessons in basic speculation about matters of SETI than any other I've encountered. The great twist is that it is much like Martin Amis' 'The Janitor of Mars'. Sweet read.
Shoggoths in Bloom
A moral tale of unexpected dimensions, SIB takes one through the investigations of a mild-mannered black American scientist who stumbles on the extraordinary biology of a creature that is much more than anyone imagines. When is the perfect slave the most powerful thing in the world, and what is the cost of freedom?
The most uplifting of all the tales, Exhalation is the wonderous side of scientific discovery told from an alien perspective. It is the sort of essay that, my dear reader, speaks to you as I do, on a rational journey of the mind that captures the spirit of the soul by considering at length the nature of the beauty, complexity and tragedy of our very existence. It is the story of thermodynamic entropy, the recognition of the heat death of a universe and the nobility of facing it with reason.
A personal story of alienation, the greatest engineer of his age tries to escape the weapons of his invention. Alas. Oh well. Spoiled that one.
The Ray-Gun: A Love Story
Every teenager should read this story. It is absolutely perfect.