Review: Solaris Rising 3 edited by Ian Whates

SolarisRising3Published by: Rebellion
ISBN: 178108209X
ISBN 13: 9781781082096
Published: August 2014
Pages: 448
Format reviewed: eVersion from NetGalley
Publisher Site: Publisher Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Four out of Five

Following the Philip K. Dick Award-nominated Solaris Rising 2, and before that Solaris Rising 1 and 1.5, we have an anthology of stories that take us to the outer reaches of the universe.

The anthology starts off with one of the most readable introductions I’ve seen in big anthologies – generally I skim over them, but this, Whates takes the time to explain how he first came across each other and how they caught his attention, which I found quite interesting.

When We Harvested the Nacre-Rice” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew

Pahayal finds a body near her home, and is surprised to see it’s not a corpse, rather, a woman, who is thankful to have been taken back to Pahayal’s home and looked after. Etiesse is a soldier, and there is a war raging. In this tale, we see an emotional story of friendship and cultures. This is a slow and steady, well written in a poetical sense, start to the anthology.

The Goblin Hunter” by Chris Beckett

Split between two sets of characters, we see a family of locals who hunt out the indigenous goblin-like creatures that project thoughts you don’t want to hear directly into your head. We also see a work unit of police-like people who have been transferred to the planet to look after the indigenous, for they keep turning up killed.

The characters in this one fairly bounce off the page. I wish it were longer – I appreciate why it ends without everything fixed and justice served on the disgusting acts we’re told of – the poor girl – but goodness did I want justice for her!

Homo Floresiensis” by Ken Liu

Ken Liu is always excellent, isn’t he? This shows two scientists a bit out of their field, but on the verge of discovery so great it demands they throw aside any other commitments they may have and take a chance. And it pays off. It leads to some difficult questions though, around morals and rights and whether this discovery belongs to science or if it needs protecting. We’re left with an open ending, in a way – we’re not quite sure what the answer or result is, but it leaves you hoping that it all turned out okay – if that’s at all possible.

A Taste for Murder” by Julie E. Czerneda

Denny Rashid Martin is a police officer, was a street cop last week, and is now at a homicide desk, having to attend funerals to work cases. In this we get to see what could happen when body modification gets a little out of control – something I just got a taste of in Nexus by Ramez Naam. The reveal in this one makes it memorable.

Double Blind” by Tony Ballantyne

A drug trial that becomes more and more mysterious, and then deadly as it goes on. A seemingly simple tale that may have more to it that I failed to grasp (and I see other reviewers wonder the same thing), or this could simply be all there is to it. Quite effectively written, but I was waiting for another twist or end result.

The Mashup” by Sean Williams

An invasion story – a guy leaves a party, but doubles back to ask the DJ what a particular song was. A small black hovering device is pointed out to him, and how there seems to be one for every human. As he tries to get home he notices more and more of them – and now soon there’s a new little device for every little device itself, a different colour and size and everything, until there’s a whole line of the colour spectrum from large (what I imagine to be fist sized) to small (speck of powder, only seen when it’s moving.) The MC makes the only decision left to him by the end of the piece.

The Frost on Jade Buds” by Aliette de Bodard

The need to grieve is a topic I’m reading a lot of, at the moment, what with Helen Macdonald’s ‘H is For Hawk’ novel. War seems to play a common theme in this anthology also. The tech in this one was interesting – I always love reading what tech the future can hold. The search made it a little slow to read, but also gave it depth.

Popular Images from the First Manned Mission to Enceladus” by Alex Dally MacFarlane

This one I didn’t really ‘get’. I didn’t care for the characters, and it seemed it was trying to do something with the structure that didn’t quite work out or went right over my head.

Red Lights, and Rain” by Gareth L. Powell

A vampire story that took me a little by surprise – and then the time travel element took that to another level. I really enjoyed this one, though I’m always a bit disbelieving when an innocent bystander is relied upon to take out the apparently lethal baddie. Sure, they had the line in that he would certainly be hunted down by the baddie now that he tried to kill him, but if so, why then leave him alone for any number of seconds? That came more as a thought after reading it though – throughout, while you’re reading it, it’s a strong piece with a good ending that has good suspense throughout.

They Swim Through Sunset Seas” by Laura Lam

The reason I requested this anthology was for this author, and I wasn’t let down. What I love about Lam’s writing, especially in her short stories, is how beautifully they’re written – you can really imagine the scenes as she describes the colours and makes it all sound so wonderful. Or even the parts where she’s describing something fairly gross – you see it all vividly.

As far as the story goes, we have one underwater researcher writing to another whom she used to work with before he made a fatal error in their work. She’s alone now in the research facility, and will be for ten standard days until a shuttle arrives – if she lasts that long. Suspense builds in this short as the creature they’re there to study becomes more and more angry at being enclosed rather than free, and more determined to break out.

A slightly morbid ending, but also a fitting one.

Faith Without Teeth” by Ian Watson

Easily one of the best shorts in the anthology. Shows the absurdity of communism, written in a dry, confident manner with excellent use of language that would make any topic or plot or characters a joy to read.

Thing and Sick” by Adam Roberts

This is an isolated character study – forcing together two people who aren’t similar at all, and in this, discover more about themselves and each other than they would have otherwise. One pretentious, and the other the one the reader is supposed to identify with (reads Dune, etc). Set in 1986, it gives us an idea of their technology and communication (ie. lacking) as they spend their hours looking for alien life.

Quite well written, certainly makes you glad for peace and quiet. Excellent closing line, so this is one of the stronger pieces in the anthology also.

The Sullen Engines” by George Zebrowski

Sadly after such a run of good pieces, this one fell rather flat for me. June wants to rid the world of cars and all they represent. She succeeds in a point towards this goal, but on from this, the story isn’t engaging or thought-provoking.

Dark Harvest” by Cat Sparks

An army on a foreign planet are having some difficulties. Though they contact base, no one comes – not to collect the body bags, so not for anything – they’re losing hope. This is a startling story, as one can expect from Sparks, and it delivers with a punch.

Fift and Shria” by Benjamin Rosenbaum

An excellent piece of work that deals elgantly and intelligently with gender and what really makes up a person – if you can inhabit different bodies, how vital is the gender of that body in to making you, you? The depth of the building that went into creating this short shows eloquently with what’s explored and delivered. Another of the stronger pieces in this anthology.

The Howl” by Ian R. MacLeod & Martin Sketchley

A change at Singapore and then Dubai and then on to London? That seems to be flying there from Australia! In this deeply personal story, a daughter speaks to a man estranged from their family after the death of her mother. This is what carries the story, rather than the SF elements, which is a little disappointing when you think of the point of the anthology, but it’s still an engaging short by its own merits regardless.

The Science of Chance” by Nina Allan

A child is found at a station with only a first name, and no mention or information on parents. She has a purse, but it only contains a newspaper clipping of a fire in a children’s home 30 years beforehand. Left in the care of the police, it’s just another mystery for them to solve.

The child hardly speaks, and that’s what makes it spooky, really, as well as wondering when the speculative fiction elements will come into play. This is well written, and once of the more memorable pieces in the anthology.

Endless” by Rachel Swirsky

This is the perfect finisher to the anthology, a story told of fire that’s continuous, time and time again. Is there anything more alive than the feeling of pain? It contains interesting thought and musings as one can expect from Swirsky, and is a strong finisher for the anthology. Good SF, good characters, good ideas to leave the reader with.

~

Overall this is a strong anthology, with nearly all the pieces very readable, and all different from each other that have been balanced well. It’s also good to see a mix of names, inviting newer names like Laura Lam to take part to help spread their excellent work. It’s also good to see a balance of people from around the globe – it’s always fun to see a few Aussie names included!

I highly recommend this anthology, and thank Rebellion for offering me a copy to review.

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