Reviewed in the United States on April 7, 2021
Fans of the Caine Riordan/Terran Republic series will love this book. The interstitial material that connects the stories of various authors is a series of future news articles; fitting since Caine Riordan was originally a news reporter.
Open the book and hold on to your hat because, after some short, framing news articles it starts off with a bang with Gannon’s fast-paced, slam-bang opening story, “The Persistence of Visions.” The title is, in itself, a nod to a 70’s Hugo winning story and anthology, but this military sci-fi story is it’s antithesis.
Next is “Botwright” by the inimitable Gray Rinehart. Cover ups of corporate greed, murder, and sexual harassment are revealed in the person of the loved one of one of the victims. Unforgettable. Favorite quote? “Asimov was a starry-eyed idealist.”
It’s followed by one of my favorite stories in the anthology – “Blaming Caine” by Barbara Krasnoff, who brings her very human touch to the story a daughter who lost her parents. They were part of 800 people who died when the Tyne blew up – “collateral damage” in one of the frequent attacks on Riordan, to try to stop him from telling what he’s discovered. She does an offbeat investigation and comes to unexpected conclusions.
Two of the offerings in the anthology tell the same story, but from very different viewpoints. “Only Human” by Kacey Ezell is the tale of a brave Indonesian translator, a young woman who helps the guerilla human fighters resisting the off-world invaders of the Arat Kur and the Hkh’Rkh, with their corporate and clone quisling human allies. “Only Animals” by Mike Massa tells the same story from the viewpoint of one of the Hkh’Rkh – who are obsessed with honor and both admire the young “clawless female” human for her honorable actions and are confused by human women and children entering the fight – he thinks (due to species differences) at the behest of human males. Both stories talk about the tenacity of the human spirit.
Next comes ”Extraction” by Robert E. Waters. It’s in the POV of the Hkh’Rkh war leader of the failed invasion of earth, rumored by the news flash preceding it to be dead, but wanted for crimes against humanity if alive. How he got out (if he got out) is a tale of intrigue, betrayal, and surprises.
I really enjoyed “The Information Assayer” by Robert R. Chase. Lots of insight as well as a great plot where an independent reporter uncovers a hornet’s nest of intrigue. Quote: “You shut down the flow of information and think you are gaining control,” he said. “It’s like blocking the nervous system because you don’t like pain. There’s a disease where that happens naturally. It’s called leprosy.” Great story.
“Survival Turnips” by Joelle Presby is told from the point of view of the clone soldiers that were made by traitorous humans to help the alien invaders. They’re still human, clones or not, as this story amply demonstrates.
The next offering, by Alex Shvartsman, is “Among the Blind.” It is, oddly enough, an affecting plea for humanity to embrace their innocent cloned brothers instead of mistreat or use them. It’s also an amazing adventure.
“Alone” by Doug Dandridge. This short story has the courageous Japanese Space Navy doing David to the exosapients’ Goliath… And, oh! It’s great. This one made me cry. I’m going to look for other stories by Dandridge.
I love Walter H. Hunt’s writing and his story, “Unreclaimable Losses, ” was no exception. This one was, surprisingly, a hard-boiled detective story – noir in the future as it were. And while the losses were not reclaimable, the P.I. still solved the case.
For a change of pace, the archeological “From the Stars” by Vonnie Winslow Crist is rather like a game of Tomb Raider crossed with The Librarians. Those familiar with the Caine Riordan series will not be surprised it is set on Delta Pavonis 3.
I have a construction background, so “Common Ground” by Alan Brown touched me with the way the engineers of two species that had been at war learned to work together and even be friends – in part because they both rolled their eyes (or the alien equivalent) about their pushy, clueless, and demanding bosses.
Lawrence M. Schoen’s wry humor and readability are showcased in his story, “Beauty in Monochrome” where corporate greed and military necessity meet (formerly adversarial) aliens on a barren world and see there is something for them to “go into business together” about. Marvelous and fun.
Another gumshoe story – this one with a French investigator and his partner – has enough twists and turns for a roller coaster. I enjoyed “Sub Rosa” by Alistair Kimble.
In “Crate 88” author Griffin Barber asks us to examine why anyone would steal, among other things, a chicken cloning lab and a transformer needed to refuel ships on this all-but-abandoned outpost. Can the local police and a representative of a newly-established interstellar inspectorate suss it out, save the outpost, refuel a stranded ship and – in the process – set some precedents for the new oversight body?
The next one is a story styled as an executive summary of a technical report. “Deep Cold” by Robert E. Hampson also has a personal note from the guy who wrote the report to the man he delivered it to, giving his personal reasons for being sure certain off-world tech is too scary to consider using.
In war the word collaborator has very negative connotations, but the story “Collaborator” by Tom Doyle reminds us that motives matter, and sometimes collaboration can be a wonderful thing.
Done in the style of a popular science magazine article, “The Banjo and the Shift Drive” by Rick Boatright explains (to us laymen) interstellar “Shift” or FTL works.
“A Fragment of Empire” by Marc Miller is a science fictional metaphor for how far-flung colonies – in this case, star systems – can break off of their attachment to central authority and set up their own independent governments.
The last story in the anthology – “The Ellsberg Variations” by Jean Marie Ward – is wonderful and a fitting bit of closure to this visit to the world of the future Terran Republic.