But first, a brief digression...
I've read pretty much exclusively via Amazon Kindle devices/apps for 13 years now. I like having a lot of books on me at all times, being able to read wherever I am, in a pool, on a beach, in line at the store... I am the IDEAL Kindle customer. I have bought (god have mercy on my soul) 1206 books.
They know EVERYTHING IT IS POSSIBLE TO KNOW about my reading habits.
Yet... did I find out about this series from Amazon?
"That's crazy, smr! Even though the collection features four authors you've previously purchased books by via Amazon? Three of whom you've purchased EVERY BOOK THEY'VE EVER RELEASED via Amazon? Wow!"
Yep! Totes true! Heard about this series from a buddy, in person.
Apparently Amazon has a whole bunch of these collections for various genres, each featuring legit superstars of the genre! A great idea, Amazon! And they're fucking FREE to me as a Prime subscriber!
Would've been great if you sent me an email or told me via the Kindle app that I'm in EVERY SINGLE WAKING DAY OF MY GODDAMNED LIFE about any of 'em!
Anyway. God, the future is so fucking annoying.
On to the short stories themselves. In the interests of this review not being longer than the collection itself was, I'm going to do this RAPID FIRE LISTICLE STYLE:
1) How It Unfolds, by James SA Corey
The duo behind The Expanse gives us a short but very interesting examination of what it would mean to have many, many "you's" running around increasingly into a far distant future. The immutable issues of how vast space is become somewhat tractable if humans can be encoded as data and shot out that way.
And if those copies also keep shooting copies out further and further? Over millennia? What if the you from four thousand years ago could tell you something in a video that survived until you existed about a chance you should take with somebody you're also living with that they fucked up? Ponderous!
A little hard to keep track of, but as ever, Corey excels at a bit of close-detail world-building married to an interesting high sci-fi concept. I liked this one quite a bit.
2) Void, by Veronica Roth
Meh. A fairly bog-standard murder mystery lightly leavened with sci-fi via it happening on a luxury cruiser that moves at a speed where like one year on the ship equals a coupla decades on either of the two planets it constantly shuffles folks between. Not a lot of there here.
3) Falling Bodies, by Rebecca Roanhorse
Somewhat interesting tale here (I'm interested these days in stories where the humans have already lost and finding our way in a universe where we're not the apex predator) but kinda lazily trope-y in its execution. Human baby is adopted by conquering alien elite figure and then a whole bunch of bog-standard racism and betrayal happens. I'd read a longer novel in this universe if it were more fleshed out and the plot actually had something resembling a hook in it.
4) The Long Game, by Ann Leckie
My favorite of the bunch. A small, simpler but undeniably sentient life-form on another planet is introduced to human capitalism in space. You can probably imagine how things go, but Leckie really makes this story interesting in the details of how humanity does its whole thing (huge military not really needed, just good ol' marketing, resource extraction, and labor exploitation, yay!) and in her characterization of the aliens. Very enjoyable, if also depressing.
5) Just Out of Jupiter's Reach, by Nnedi Okorafor
I liked this one quite a bit as well. The concept of "grown" spaceships that are bespoke and tied to their riders, but the ships kinda choose them based on DNA compatibility, so that you've got some real diversity in the characters here in a way that allows for a more-interesting-than-usual set of conflicts in the plot... all good stuff. Also, again, a sucker for the vampire specter of Capitalism just... staining every consideration of the actors. Like, these folks each stand to make 20 million Euro... but for FIVE FUCKING YEARS ALONE IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM. Like, the info they'll bring back, the knowledge and data, will make the capitalists funding it TRILLIONS. It's a fuckin' rip job, honestly.
Nnedi worked that whole again very interestingly and enragingly, but also not as even a secondary plot point of much notice. It's just THERE, something everybody has to consider and deal with.
The sci-if, per se, was a bit weaker. The starships are cool as hell but there's a LOT of hand-waving and very little sense of risk in the voyage somehow. But the strength of the character-driven plot (again, not giving away much here because these stories are SHORT, just fuckin' read it yourself if you're intrigued) made that not at all annoying to me.
Props also for the very affecting side-story about the crabs. Man.
6) Slow Time Between the Stars, by John Scalzi
I've been on a journey with this guy. Loved the Old Man's War series. Liked the start of the Interdependency series, HATED the ending. Bounced hard off of everything else he's done. I had figured i just... middle-aged out of his stuff or something.
So color me pleasantly surprised that I quite enjoyed this entry. Humanity builds an AI-powered spaceship to go find other human-habitable planets. AI decides it doesn't give a shit about what humans want. Manages to utilize the resources of the universe to keep patching itself up for millions of years.
Not super-deep, but an enjoyable trip.
Overall, I dug this collection quite a bit. Hope Amazon figures out a way to let me know about more stuff like this that it has sometime soon, I guess two decades of every bit of data about my reading habits wasn't quite enough! Someday soon, though, that plucky kid Bezos will figure it out.