Monday, February 18, 2008

Book Review: The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction edited by George Mann

Every Monday, I'll be doing spoiler-free book reviews.

One of two original anthologies edited by George Mann for Solaris that was released in 2007, I wondered why The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction was in Locus's Recommended Reading: 2007 but not its companion, The Solaris Book of New Fantasy. After going through both books, I do think this is indeed the superior anthology of the two (whether it's due to quality or maybe because I'm not as familiar with science fiction as I am with fantasy, I'm not so sure) with its sixteen science fiction stories. It has a mix of both interesting conceptual stories ("A Distillation of Grace" by Adam Roberts and "The Accord" by Keith Brooke") as well as character-driven and emotionally-gripping stories ("C-Rock City" by Jay Lake & Greg van Eekhout and "Last Contact" by Stephen Baxter). For me what's even interesting is that there are two stories in the anthology in which two authors collaborate on (the previously mentioned "C-Rock City" and "Jelly Fish" by Mike Resnick and David Gerrold). Overall, the reading experience was quite enjoyable and for the most part, I did like majority of the stories. Here's my top three: "The Bowdler Strain" by James Lovegrove is a story that's easy to get into and quite funny. This is easily one of the stories that I can pass on to people who are intimidated by science fiction or think that it's too dull. "Personal Jesus" by Paul Di Filippo is compelling by both the science fiction element and the human element that Filippo uses. It also begins in the same light-hearted fashion of "The Bowdler Strain" yet has a serious tone lying underneath. "Third Person" by Tony Ballantyne I enjoyed due to its metafictional elements and how he ties it with science fiction and his story. The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction is an anthology that's easy to get into and quite compelling. If you're looking for hard science fiction, this might not be the best place to look for it but it does feature a lot of eye-opening ideas.

Rating: 4/5.

Rating System:

1 - There are better ways to spend your time.
2 - Ho hum books, usually typical of its genre. Probably only recommendable to die-hard fans.
3 - A cut above the rest, usually with one or more elements that sets it apart from the norm.
4 - Highly recommended and is easily a pioneer of the genre.
5 - A classic or it will be.

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