lunes, 23 de enero de 2017

Bridging Infinity, anthology edited by Jonathan Strahan


(Disclaimer: English is my second language, so I want to apologize in advance for there may be mistakes in the text below. If you find any, please let me know so that I can correct it. I'd really appreciate it. Thanks.)

Review Soundtrack: I suggest reading this review while listening to Building the Infinite Bridge, by The Infinite Bridge (Spotify).

Bridging Infinity is the fifth instalment of what has been called The Infinity Project, a series of anthologies of hard science fiction edited by Jonathan Strahan that, in my opinion, have become the most important in the field in the last few years. In particular, Reach for Infinity, published in 2014, is probably one of my favourite anthologies ever (you can read my detailed review for more details on what I loved from the book). Thus, as you can imagine, I was really looking forward to reading this new book, especially because the topic, this time, is one that fascinates me: big structures and mega-engineering projects. 

Bridging Infinity is a solid science fiction anthology that includes original short stories by some of the most prominent current authors in the field. For instance, you will find works by Alastair Reynolds, Pat Cadigan, Charlie Jane Anders, Larry Niven, Gregory Benford and Ken Liu. An impressive line-up, no doubt. But after reading it, I couldn't help feeling slightly (just slightly) underwhelmed, probably because the previous instalments of the series had set the bar really high. 

There are many remarkable stories in Bridging Infinity. For example, I did enjoy reading "Sixteen Questions for Kamala Chaterjee", by Alastair Reynolds, "The Venus Generations", by Stephen Baxter, "Six Degrees of Separation", by Pat Cadigan and "Rager in Space", by Charlie Jane Anders. Especially the ones by Reynolds and Baxter have much of that sense of wonder that I was expecting from the book. However, their endings are not completely satisfactory and feel a bit rushed and anticlimactic, something that many of the stories included in the book seem to have in common. 

In addition to those four, there are another three stories that I think are the most memorable in Bridging Infinity and that are, by themselves, almost worth the price of admission. The first of them is "Parables of Infinity", by Robert Reed, a new story set in the Great Ship series and a very good one at that (probably the best story by Reed that I've read in a long while). 

The second is "Apache Charley and the Pentagons of Hex", by Allen Steele, which successfully combines a YA story with an intriguing mystery and an amazing mega-structure. The beginning of the story is just excellent and Steele completely managed to hook me from the very first page. However, again the ending is too rushed and I really think it would have benefited from a longer extension. 

Finally, the best story of the book is, hands down, "Seven Birthdays", by Ken Liu (which you can read online at Tor.com). Since publishing his first novel, Liu is no longer as prolific in the short fiction field as he was a couple of years ago, but with works such as this one he proves that he is still one of the best writers of short stories in fantasy and science fiction literature. In "Seven Birthdays", Liu nails almost everything: the tone, the speculation, the structure... One of my favourite stories of 2016.

All in all, as I've mentioned above, Bridging Infinity is a solid science fiction anthology with quite a number of good or very good stories, but most of them would need some more pages to completely exploit their potential. For that, my impression is that this new book is a step below Reach for Infinity or Meeting Infinity. Anyway, the anthology is quite enjoyable and I am already looking forward to new instalments in the series. 

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