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Vast: Stories of Mind, Soul and Consciousness in a Technological Age Paperback – February 27, 2020
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What would it mean for an artificial brain to become conscious? Is awareness always tethered to the body? Could we ever accept a virtual reality as our own? Perhaps our minds already have more impact on the fabric of reality than we realise...
Stephen Oram - Chimy and Chris
J.R. Staples-Ager - Little Thief
Thomas Cline - Limited Infinity
Vaughan Stanger - Dreamtime
Sergio 'ente per ente' Palumbo - The Weight of Your Mind
Jonathan D. Clark - The Video
Ellinor Kall - The DreamCube Thread
Ava Kelly - Luz Beyond the Glass
Peter Burton - Every Aspect of Every Recollection
Juliane Graef - Ancestors
- Publisher : Orchid's Lantern (February 27, 2020)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 162 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1999868447
- ISBN-13 : 978-1999868444
- Item Weight : 6.4 ounces
- Dimensions : 5 x 0.41 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #4,925,401 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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"Chimy and Chris" by Stephen Oram was the first story and it really blew me away. Just a good opening piece.
"Little Thief" by J.R. Staples Ager was really good.
"The Video" by Jonathan D. Clark. For something so tragic, it was written so beautifully.
These three were favorites, but the anthology as a whole was incredible.
Top reviews from other countries
In the opening story, Chimy and Chris, Stephen Oram sets out a wonderfully novel retelling of the brain in a vat analogy, riffing on the basic materialist position of matter = mind, before twisting sharply and subverting such traditional idea. Similarly, Sergio Palumbo (The Weight of Your Mind) presents a different materialistic presentation, narratively spanning neuroscience, quantum physics and dreams.
These stories sit in tension with dualistic presentations of consciousness, such as Peter Burton's Every Aspect of Every Recollection, a bold exploration of consciousness free from the tethers of a linear, or even a single, timeline. Reading the stories next to each other, it is easy to appreciate how the desire to identify our minds entirely with our bodies is held in check by the special qualitative nature of what it is to be conscious. Jonathan D. Clark provides a wonderful micro-study in what it is to see something in his deceptively simple story, The Video. The story contrasts seeing a video for the first time against every single repeated viewing afterward, where the outcome is known, and in doing so, captures the essence of what it is to experience in the moment. For a bit of fun, I suggest reading it a second time, knowing the end of the story for a bit of recursive philosophical humour.
I particularly enjoyed Ellinor Kall's The DreamCube Thread, with it's playful use of form balanced against an interrogative line of thought about the nature of thought itself and the interconnectivity of minds. This represents everything I love about speculative fiction. It's an enjoyable read that's simultaneously intellectually satisfying; think Terry Pratchett pontificating on socio-economic theories through Sam Vimes and his cardboard-soled boots.
Whether you like your spec-fic cyberpunk (J.R. Staples-Ager's Little Thief), mystery (Thomas Cline's Limited Infinity - probably my favourite overall) or cli-fi oriented (Juliane Gaef's Ancestors), there will be something in here for you to enjoy and get your teeth into. And if there's something that isn't your bag, move on to the next story; there are ten, all different, yet interconnected into a satisfyingly coherent package. Editor C.R. Dudley deserves credit for bringing together a disparate set of narratives that all drive at the same ephemeral question from a variety of different directions and in a way you could almost believe they were written with knowledge of each other.
As a final note, I would say something about formats. Many stories exist as simple consumables - the narrative exists to be read and enjoyed and that's it. Nothing wrong with that. In such cases, I'm happy to consume in paperback or on my Kindle. I'm not fussy. In this case, however, the stories benefit from being consumed and digested - if that makes sense? As such, my recommendation is to invest in the paperback. It feels to me like having a physical copy of the stories helps me form a stronger connection to them than I would get in a purely digital format, where I can't flip back and forth as easily. Maybe there's something in that or maybe it's simply a reflection of my own position on the mind-body problem. Who knows?