Another theme-centered SF anthology from the prolific Dozois: writers offer cautionary examinations of the dubious, horrific, and comic possibilities of human engineering. Though the scientifically tweaked human being goes at least as far back as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the Übermenschen in these 26 previously published stories reflect the more modern science fictional concern of what James Blish, in his own story “Watershed,” calls “pantropy”: the ability to use technology to alter human beings so they can thrive in new environments. Avoiding two familiar genre classics, Daniel Keyes’s weepy “Flowers for Algernon” and Philip Jose Farmer’s salacious “The Golden Man,” Dozois makes selections that are mostly about how pantropic wish-fulfillment brings ironic results: Roger Zelazny’s half-man, half machine in “Halfjack” finds interfacing with a spaceship more fulfilling than sex with a woman, while drug-enhanced, dueling supergeniuses learn to kill with a single word in Ted Chiang’s “Understand.” Gene Wolfe posits a nightmare race of feral human cannibals preying on the few survivors of planet-wide bio-catastrophe in “Werewolf as Hero,” while the pantropically pumped-up mass murderer in Bruce Sterling’s “Spook” loves his job because being normal is no fun. But being super is not fun to the alienated spacemen of Samuel Delaney's “Aye, and Gomorrah” or to the burned-out, technologically obsolete cyber wizards in Charles Stross’s hilarious “Toast: a Con Report.” Dozois ends with a trio of short social satires culminating in Robert Charles Wilson’s “The Great Goodbye,” where the human condition is defined as being content with the way things are.
Entertaining and thought-provoking companion to Worldmakers, Dozois’s collection of terraforming stories (p. 1460).