A science-fiction anthology that strikes a balance between radical scientific ideas and grounded human emotion.
Editors Bova and Choi aim to “follow the classic definition of hard SF, in which some element of science or technology is so central to the plot that there would be no story if that element were removed.” Unfortunately, a couple of their selections take that mission a little too far, becoming more idea than story. But most of the stories here are very good, and several are great, combining intriguing new ideas with satisfying old emotions like love, regret, jealousy and grief. The best take their near- or distant-future settings for granted, indicating the ways our world has changed with light touches—like the “sweet and salted insect finger food” served at a garden party in Gregory Benford’s “Lady With Fox”—in order to prove that people are people, even when they’re outrunning a black hole or mining for water on one of Jupiter’s moons. Kate Story’s “The Yoke of Inauspicious Stars” makes an old, familiar love story feel new again and not just because of the cryopods; Nancy Fulda’s “Recollection” and Daniel H. Wilson’s “The Blue Afternoon that Lasted Forever” bring a laserlike focus to pure, powerful moments of human connection. One of the collection’s most memorable characters, in David DeGraff’s “SIREN of Titan,” isn’t human at all, but she’ll still break your heart.
The few misses in this collection are more than made up for by the strength of the hits. Hard-core sci-fi fans will gobble this up, and readers newer to the genre should give it a chance, too.