Twenty-one new and previously published stories are gathered loosely by subgenre in this collection from sci-fi author Howey (Sand, 2017, etc.).
The first four stories deal with alien places and cultures. “Second Suicide” stands out, with stereotypical alien invaders (they're even tentacled) that at first seem comical—but their unique struggle with mortality is quite serious. “Nothing Goes to Waste” packs a gruesome, concise punch, highlighting the sacrifices made for art and sport. In the second section, Artificial Intelligences, the most charming of the four stories, “Glitch,” explores the moment when an arena battle-bot learns how not to fight. The next three stories are set in Howey's Silo universe, a post-apocalyptic world where select survivors repopulate the planet after a global purge. Though the stories reference characters from other Silo works, they stand alone well and proceed from the initial disaster to the tragic conclusion of the quest for justice (or revenge) of two people who saw their world end. The fantasy section includes “The Good God,” a blackly humorous look at how evil might defeat good via spam overcommunication; it's all too timely in our era of fake news. Howey explores discrimination with “The Automated Ones” and its heart-rending sequel, “WHILE (u > i) i - -;” a bittersweet love story between a woman and an android. “Select Character” follows a housewife who plays her husband's video games out of boredom—but plays them her way, unlocking a more hopeful definition of victory. The last story, “Peace in Amber,” is the most personal, incorporating Howey's own experiences of 9/11 while also paying homage to Slaughterhouse-Five. Each story is followed by insightful author's notes.
A thoroughly engaging collection with a dark sense of humor but its finger always on the pulse of genuine human concerns.