BooksOfTheMoon

Engineering Infinity

By Jonathan Strahan

Rating: 3 stars

This is a collection of short stories (mostly) with the theme of “hard SF”, although this is never really defined (a point that the editor notes in the introduction) and some of the stories definitely stray outside this sub-genre. There were more hits than misses in the collection, but it’s the misses that stand out for me, possibly because there was a string of them in quick succession in the middle of the book. There was Kathleen Ann Goonan’s Creatures With Wings (a small Buddhist community is saved/kidnapped by angels/aliens just before the end of the world) and Walls of Flesh, Bars of Bone which started off strongly with a drunken sociology professor seeing something impossible in a fragment of old 35mm film but quickly descends into incomprehensibility (for me, at least).

But there are also some great stories. There’s Charlie Stross’s Bit Rot, set in the same universe as his novel Saturn’s Children and the wonderfully named The Server and the Dragon which was an interesting story but really left me wanting to know more about the world that we got glimpses of in the narrative. I had the same problem (albeit moreso) with David Moles’ A Solider of the City, which dropped tantalising hints of the world the story was set in but ignored them in favour of a very narrow story that I found unsatisfying compared to the world.

Both Peter Watts’ Malak and Stephen Baxter’s The Invasion of Venus were fascinating reads because they had the Other at the heart of them. The former got us into the codebase of a non-sentient fighter drone aircraft whose program was altered to make it take collateral damage into account; and the latter had Humans getting really worked up about an incoming alien spacecraft and then feeling the let down when they realise that it wasn’t heading towards Earth.

A decent mix of stories but unfortunately it’s the ones I didn’t enjoy that I remember more than the ones I did.

Book details

ISBN: 9781907519512
Publisher: Solaris
Year of publication: 2010

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