01/05/2010. Contributed by Gareth D Jones
pub: Solaris/Rebellion. 453 page paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-906735-66-1.
check out website: www.solarisbooks.com
I've been looking forward to receiving the 'Shine' anthology. One of my stories was published on editor Jetse De Vries' 'Outshine' twitterzine and he sent me a most encouraging rejection for the 'Shine' anthology itself. I was also at the launch party at Eastercon and met some of the authors. The striking cover art is unmistakably the work of the talented Vincent Chong - bright, stylish, optimistic. That, in case you hadn't heard, is the theme of the anthology. I'm not one for movements - mundane SF, optimistic SF etc, I'm happy to read them all. It is interesting, though, to see an entire anthology with the remit of showing an optimistic future. Does this mean nobody will die, that everyone lives happily ever after?
There are 16 stories in total and although they share a common setting of near-future Earth, the variety of cultures and locations gives the book as much variety as you often get from a whole galaxy.
Jason Stoddard's 'Overhead' is only partly set on Earth, the other part of the action is on an idealistic, experimental lunar colony. The colony develops from a dubious insurance company in the kind of unexpected development that typifies many of this anthology's stories. Technology and social developments that are often assumed in SF to have a negative future have been turned on their head to great effect.
Much shorter is 'Sustainable Development' by Paula R. Stiles, a wry little tale set in a deprived African land. There is some good description of the local customs, the abuse of technology and the bright face put on their fate by the local women. There are only three of these short tales, sprinkled amongst the longer, sometimes heavier, stories to provide some light relief. 'Seeds' by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a cheeky little tale set in Mexico, where advanced biotechnology is no match for local ingenuity. Both of these stories left a smile on my face. Jason Andrew's 'Scheherezade Cast In Starlight', however, shows how global technology can be an ally in the fight against oppression. All three of these stories do an excellent job of invoking the culture and feel of a far-off land.
Lavie Tidhar makes a welcome appearance with 'The Solnet Ascendancy', a humorous story set on remote Vanuatu. It's a brilliant little story that returns intermittently to see the unfeasible progress made as technology becomes available and local ingenuity puts it to good use. It's a refreshingly different location for a story and makes for an enjoyable pleasant read.
I've always enjoyed stories written in a non-standard format - I've written a few myself - and Mari Ness' 'Twittering The Stars' is written as a series of tweets from aboard an asteroid mining mission. It's quite an art to pulling this kind of thing off; there's no point chopping your story into 140 character chunks just as a gimmick. This one is well done, though, the story, the personal reflections, answers to unseen return tweets, all tie together to develop a fluid narrative.
Kay Kenyon's 'Castoff World' is like 'Waterworld' with a dose of realism. Caught in the North Pacific gyre, a young girl and her oceanographer grandfather live aboard a nanotech-created floating garbage mat. The innocent viewpoint of the girl, her misunderstanding of technology and hazy knowledge of the catastrophes of the outside world all amount to a touching tale with a suitably vague back story.
It would be difficult for me to choose a favourite from the book, but Madeline Ashby's 'Ishin' would be one of them. The two protagonists appear to be undercover agents in a war-torn land, using covert surveillance technology on behalf of a mysterious organisation. The technology isn't used merely for military purposes though, the omnipresent surveillance is accessible by all and used for the common good. It's a tough and gritty story, but one that left me with a warm feeling.
The whole collection has the effect of leaving you in a better frame of mind at the end of each story. It's not that all of the stories are warm and cosy. On the contrary, some of the narrators are coarse, violent and vulgar. The overall tempo succeeds in meeting the aim of the anthology, demonstrating that mankind, either individually or collectively, socially or technologically, can make a positive difference.
Gareth D. Jones
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