jueves, 23 de enero de 2014

Twelve Tomorrows, a MIT Technology Review anthology

Review Soundtrack: I suggest reading this review while listening to When Tomorrow Comes by Eurythmics (Spotify, Youtube).

I became interested in Twelve Tomorrows, an anthology edited by MIT Technology Review, as soon as I read about its impressive line-up of authors; twelve science fiction writers, very well-known almost all of them, including several of my all-time favorites: Greg Egan, Ian McDonald, Peter Watts... My expectations with this anthology were, thus, very high and I must say Twelve Tomorrows (nearly) fulfilled all of them. 

Of the twelve short stories contained in the anthology there was only one I didn't care much for ("The Mighty Mi Tok of Beijing" by Brian W. Aldiss), the rest being good, very good or plain excellent. In this latter category, I'd include "The Revolution Will Not be Refrigerated" by Ian McDonald and, especially, "The Cyborg and the Cemetery" by Nancy Fulda. McDonald's story is, as we have come to expect of him, evocative and beautifully written, with very powerful images extrapolated from the events of the Arab Spring. Fulda, on the other hand, uses a simpler and more direct language, but she explores identity in an original, very profound way. Her ideas made think more than any other story in the book and, in fact, more than most of what I've read this year. For all these reasons, I will most surely be nominating both McDonald's and Fulda's stories for the Hugo Awards.

I also liked "Zero for Conduct", by Greg Egan, very much (this particular story seems to have been the most popular of the anthology, being included in both Dozois's and Strahan's best of the year). I must say this is not your average Egan story. No digital personalities, no extreme philosophies, no harder-than-diamond science. Obviously, science is at the heart of the story (just its title is a hint of that) but it's far from being the only important part in it. In fact, "Zero for Conduct" achieves the balance between speculation and character development that I think Egan was aiming for (but was unable to get) with Zendegi. Recommended.

Other highlights of the book are "Firebrand" by Peter Watts (intelligent, incisive and humorous at the same time), "Insistence of Vision" by David Brin (which seems, sometimes, scaringly close to becoming a reality), "Pathways" by Nancy Kress (with the most three-dimensional characters of all the book) and "Transitional Forms" by Paul McAuley (another story selected by Gardner Dozois for his "best of" anthology).

In addition to the short stories, Twelve Tomorrows also includes a rather interesting interview with Neal Stephenson (you can view it in its entirety at MIT Technology Review's site) and several pages of art by Richard Powers (the cover illustration is also by Powers). 

All in all, Twelve Tomorrows is a good and very solid anthology, just shy of excellent. I really enjoyed how different authors tackled a number of topics that are very important and relevant nowadays (digital surveillance, genetic engineering and therapies, body augmentations...) from different perspectives to give us a glimpse of the future that might be just around the corner. Twelve Tomorrows is one of the best anthologies of the year and the kind I want to see more of. I recommend it to science fiction fans and to those interested in technology and where it can bring us.

(You can also read this review in Spanish/También puedes leer esta reseña en español)       

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