Nine substantial stories, 2007-2009, from Kress (Crucible, 2004, etc.).
Framing the collection are two award-winning long tales, both speaking to the trials and compensations of growing old. A magnificent yarn, "The Erdmann Nexus" won the Hugo award for best novella in 2009 and describes the emergence of a dangerously god-like collective intelligence among old folks—think experience, wisdom, memories—living in a retirement home. "Fountains of Age" captured the Nebula award for best novella of 2007: A fabulously wealthy retired gangster discovers that the woman with whom he had a brief, intense affair many years ago is the source of the longevity treatments available to those that can afford them, and becomes consumed with the desire to see her again. Kress' talent for dreaming up odd aliens reveals itself in "The Kindness of Strangers," where they wipe out every major city on Earth—for our own good, of course; and in "Laws of Survival," where aliens visiting a devastated Earth want their captives to train dogs to protect and serve them. Two tales concern genetic experiments on children. In "First Rites," these experiments produce an autistic child instead of the hoped-for transcendentally aware mind. And "Safeguard" describes the tragic results of a biological warfare project. Elsewhere, "By Fools Like Me" features a nightmarish post-apocalyptic future where anything that survives from the former age is evil. Persons considering using one of the new "focus" drugs might wish to read "End Game" first. And if you're thinking of taking up photography, ponder the strange results obtained in "Images of Anna." Quality oozes from every page.
A master class in the art of short-story writing.