Stories from “a chorus of storytellers who are up to the task of capturing the essence of our world’s present and future,” according to co-editor Rajaniemi (Summerland, 2018, etc.).
Anthologies are a tricky thing. When done well, a great anthology has both gripping short stories and a compelling overarching motif. At the very least, an anthology needs one or the other. Invisible Planets, an outstanding selection of Chinese short science fiction in translation edited by Ken Liu, hit both marks, and although the quality of stories in last year’s A People’s Future of the United States, edited by Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams, was deeply uneven, its concept of collecting near-future tales of marginalized people was thought-provoking. However, this collection, edited by Rajaniemi and Weisman (co-editor: The Unicorn Anthology, 2019, etc.), has a bland, vague theme—“new voices,” although many were first published years ago—and exactly one impressive story. Alice Sola Kim, one of the few bright spots in the LaValle and Adams anthology, stands out again here. Like her previous story, “Now Wait for This Week,” “One Hour, Every Seven Years” plays with the idea of time repeating and doubling back on itself, as a time-travel researcher struggles to save her 9-year-old self from her classmates’ torment. The rest of the stories range from forgettable to genuinely terrible. Suzanne Palmer’s “The Secret Life of Bots” takes the what-if-robots-were-sentient idea and does nothing especially new or interesting with it. Jamie Walhs’ virtual-reality story, “Utopia, LOL?” is so full of cringe-y online-speak that one can feel it becoming dated as one reads it—“Charlie looks all skeptical_fry.pic.” Yikes. The absolute nadir of the 20 stories is “Calved” by Sam J. Miller, in which a man struggles to connect with his son; the tale ends with an idiotically regressive twist.
A useless sci-fi collection with a paltry 1-in-20 success rate.