New Ceres Nights

By Alisa Krasnostein

Rating: 3 stars

I am a child of the late 20th/early 21st centuries, and I love living in the future. The idea of living at any point in history other than now fills me with some horror. The idea of not having painkillers, antibiotics, functioning medicine and surgery, not to mention missing instantaneous worldwide communication and an ether surrounding us that we can tap into with a hand-held device that allows access to the sum total of human knowledge fills me with horror. So I really don’t understand why the colony world of New Ceres decided that the 18th century was a good time to go back to.

Not just the aesthetics, but the whole shebang. Apart from the spaceport, which keeps them in touch with the rest of human civilisation, the populace (are supposed) to have no technology beyond that of the Enlightenment period. This is something which mostly doesn’t happen as just about every story in this collection is about the use or misuse or suppression of some forbidden technology by the semi-religious guardians, the Lumoscenti.

The first story in the collection tries to offer a rationale for this, but it wasn’t convincing to me, and the fact that so many of the stories are based around the tension around the use of illegal technology suggests that the authors aren’t entirely sure where to go as well.

This is a shared world (although the website seems to be dead, although archived by the Wayback Machine) where multiple writers and artists could collaborate on the world and its history. You can see that in this collection, where characters in one story may turn up as myths or legends in another, providing a pleasing sense of continuity.

The stories themselves were mostly entertaining, although I hadn’t heard of many of the writers involved, with Aliette de Bodard being the only exception. My favourite stories were probably “The Sharp Shooter” by Sylvia Kelso about a native beast terrorising a farmstead and the man sent out by the local aristocrat to deal with it; and Smuggler’s Moon by Lee Battersby, once again bringing into sharp relief the tension between the ideals behind banning technology and the effect that has on the real populace.

So a decent enough collection, but I have no real urge to dig up more about New Ceres.

Book details

ISBN: 9780980484120
Publisher: Twelfth Planet Press
Year of publication: 2009

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