From Publishers Weekly
A few of the 16 contributions to Anders's all-original anthology about the dark side of tomorrow simply present a Big Scary Idea with little storytelling; others offer the kind of thoughtful, full-bodied admonitions that SF can do so well. Sean McMullen's "The Engines of Arcadia," for example, reconsiders the devolutionary theory of H.G. Wells's The Time Machine
: what if humans weren't doomed to degenerate but instead could choose to survive happily for all time? Another side of humanity comes into play in Adam Roberts's "Man You Gotta Go," the story of a chirpy, helpful AI that gives us all the chance to explore the universe—if we're willing to give up our physical bodies. The nature of a "human" soul is tested in Robert Charles Wilson's "The Cartesian Theater," in which artificial constructions die in agony for the audience's amusement. These writers stress human potential for bad choices. Evidently, we
are the scariest aspect of the future. Read in short stretches, this volume offers a worthwhile assortment of jolting warnings. Anders (Live Without a Net
) is the editorial director of Pyr, Prometheus Books' SF imprint.
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With the title of his social critique, Future Shock
(1970), Alvin Toffler coined a term to describe the angst created by sudden, disorienting technological advancement. Although technology's social disruption has been a theme in sf since the genre's inception, editor Anders wisely limits the selections in this collection of new stories to extrapolating inventive scenarios from today's more disquieting trends. In the brilliant opening story, Paul DiFilippo envisions what havoc might be wrought should a common drug eliminate the need for sleep. Alan Dean Foster explores the seamier side of biochips in a fanciful tale about knowledge junkies--that is, people who can't stop uploading entire encyclopedias to their cerebral cortices. The time viewer
in Mike Resnick and Harry Turtledove's collaboration is an intriguing device that allows glimpses of any past event, but probing history's archives a little too far can be deadly. There are 16 entertaining and thought-provoking stories in all here, and they are just unsettling enough that readers may want to spread out reading them over several sittings. Carl HaysCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved