Monday, May 12, 2008

Book Review: The Starry Rift: Tales of New Tomorrows edited by Jonathan Strahan

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

My one complaint about The Starry Rift is that while this is a science fiction anthology aimed at young adult readers, there is nothing on the cover that would suggest its target demographic. Of course having said that, this book is well written that irregardless of whether you're young or old, it's an enjoyable read. There are sixteen stories here of varying length and styles, each having that juvenile vibe (mainly through its young protagonists) and its sci-fi lite (no complex hard science fiction expositions here) moments. What impressed me the most was that after reading a story, I could genuinely say it's a fun story that I wouldn't mind re-reading, with emphasis on the fun part rather than "that's a brilliant concept!". I'm torn in which are my top three stories. On one hand, there are those that appeal to my inner child such as "Ass-Hat Magic Spider" by Scott Westerfeld, "Repair Kit" by Stephen Baxter, and "The Star Sturgeon's Apprentice" by Alastair Reynolds. These three I think best capture that classic young adult sci-fi atmosphere pioneered by the likes of Henlein. "Ass-Hat Magic Spider" is a touching story for bibliophiles yet the science fiction element is both integral and very plausible. "Repair Kit" on the other hand isn't exactly on my list of "possible science fiction innovations" in the near future but for a brief moment, I feel like I'm Star Trek's Scotty mixed in with a bit of Asimov. "The Star Sturgeon's Apprentice" is sheer exploration and adventure. Having said that, there are stories that impressed me with sheer technique and its layers of meaning. Kelly Link's "The Surfer" was compelling and had a good grasp of character, tackling a global epidemic from the perspective of one optimistic but proud kid. While Cory Doctorow's "Anda's Game" might not be initially as impressive as the short story it's paying homage to, it's an terrific story nonetheless with its combination of modern concerns, real-life addictions, and sympathetic protagonist. "Pinocchio" by Walter Jon Williams is an aptly titled piece that both adults and the young ones can appreciate. Overall this was a great purchase and rekindled my sense of wonder as well as proving that you don't need to write a hard science fiction story to tell a good, compelling narrative. Recommended to everyone, irregardless of whether you like science fiction or not.

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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