BOOK REVIEW: Science Fiction, Volume 2, by Kevin J. Anderson

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Publisher: WordFire Press

Series: Selected Stories: Science Fiction (#2)

Genre: Various

Pages: 325

Publication Date: 29/01/19

Verdict: 4.75/5

 

Sixteen more stories from one of SF’s modern greats.

 

As with Volume 1, this a series of short stories and novellas, each with an accompanying introduction from Anderson himself. Most of these are solo efforts, but there are a few collaborative pieces here too, though not as many as in the first volume. Capping off the collection is an extract from Anderson’s novel Hopscotch, serving as a perfect bridge between shorter works and novel-length stories. Indeed, a lot of these stories are more novellas than short stories, with more in-depth worldbuilding and plotting than most shorts I’ve read.

‘Prisons’ is my stand-out favourite piece. A collaboration with Doug Beason, it has similar themes to the pair’s work in Volume 1. Specifically, the relationship between AI minds and humans. It’s tightly plotted, with a mean twist, and hints at a much larger universe to tell stories in. In brief, the perfect short story. I believe the pair have a novel coming out in the near-future, so I’ll definitely be looking into that.

Praise must also be given to the ‘One Night Stand’, ‘Show Me Some Skin’ and ‘The Happy Hookermorph’, a trio of stories that are, Anderson admits, racier than his usual fare. I must admit, I never expected to be so enthralled with the comedic espionage of a shape-shifting prostitute, but ‘The Happy Hookermorph’ was as pleasant a surprise for me as she is for her customers. The introduction to ‘Show Me Some Skin, hit a personal note for me. An erotica written in pursuit of an MFA degree, it’s a brilliant display of a writer subverting the demands of a lecturer. Having recently completed a Masters of my own, I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who twisted assignments to a more SF persuasion.

A fair few of these stories were written on demand for various anthologies over the years, and put together they show the diversity of Anderson’s writing. One of his real strengths is taking a prompt and just running with it, weaving a story that’s as unpredictable as it is entertaining. The introductions to these pieces also show the experience Anderson has in the publishing world, and the contacts he’s made. reading those snippets and anecdotes, it’s just like being back in an Asimov paperback, glimpsing the esoteric world of SF’s Golden Age.

 

All told, Volume 2 is as strong as Volume 1. I’d highly recommend picking them up if you get the chance.

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