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In the spirit of old school sci-fi, Joshua Viola and Jason Heller present us with the latest views from the edge. The anthology features 20 diverse stories from the genre’s leading writings. It satisfies our desire for the hacker runs of yesterday and the singularity-centric glimpses of the near future. There are stories include VR rigs, feedback loops, AI sentience, robotics, the future of medicine, and more. Cyber World is dark, gritty, and rooted in real-world concerns.
List of Fiction
* Serenade by Isabel Yap
* The Mighty Phin by Nisi Shawl
* Reactions by Mario Acevedo
* The Bees of Kiribati by Warren Hammond
* The Rest Between Two Notes by Cat Rambo
* The Singularity Is in Your Hair by Matthew Kressel
* Panic City by Madeline Ashby
* The Faithful Soldier by Saladin Ahmed
* Your Bones Will Not Be Uknown by Alyssa Wong
* Staunch by Paul Graham Raven
* Other People’s Thoughts by Chinelo Onwaulu
* wysiomg by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro
* We Will Take Care of Our Own by Angie Hodapp
* A Song Transmuted by Sarah Pinsker
* It’s Only Words by Keith Ferrell
* Small Offerings by Paolo Bacigalupi
* Darkout by E. Lily Yu
* Visible Damage by Stephen Graham Jones
* The Ibex on the Day of Extinction by Minister Faust
* How Nothing Happens by Darin Bradley
Having your fantasies become reality is always better than living in reality and wishing you were somewhere else.
– The Singularity is in Your Hair, Matthew Kressel
Select Stories & Summaries
Visible Damage (Stephen Graham Jones) — In the far future, where life is seamlessly integrated with technology, a hacker-artist named Raz is commissioned to capture an ASCII-graph image of an artificial intelligence. Some simple B & E, a little art, what could possibly go wrong? A cyberpunk story set in a post-singularity world, Visible Damage is well written and frightening. It explores the nature of humanity and hubris Black Mirror-style.
The Singularity Is in Your Hair (Matthew Kressel) — A severely crippled 16-year-old freelance coder teams up with an AI in the virtual world to create premium synesthetic experiences. Kressel uses real technology such as hackable exploits and public key cryptography to craft a VR world with real brand names and is highly relatable. A powerful story that deals with technology’s deeper value and our rush to have it.
The Ibex on the Day of Extinction (Minister Faust) — A Kenyan-Canadian eco-tech developer is working to create a sustainable ecology in a war-ravaged Niger when something terrifying happens. Like many stories in the anthology, it features an interesting multicultural setting. It also explores the relationship between mankind and progress.
Darkout (E. Lily Yu) — This story explores the role of social media and an all-pervasive surveillance system sweeping across a near-futuristic world. Held hostage by hackers, the governments of the world decree that everyone can watch everything 24/7. What does it mean for privacy issues and society as a whole? Check out one man’s perspective in this creepy short.
Serenade (Isabel Yap) — A post-cyberpunk tale of two hackers hired to extract data from an encrypted USB stick. The information they find may be more than the client asked for. There’s plenty of multicultural aspects that are reminiscent of old school cyberpunk. The story is about accepting the real world in a digital age.
The Rest Between Two Notes (Cat Rambo) — In a near-apocalyptic New York, a girl exercises her inner demons in the safety of VR. But safety is overrated and, put bluntly, sometimes hitting things in the head is justifiable. Dark and powerful writing. Every kid in America should read this for a cathartic release.
Small Offerings (Paolo Bacigalupi) — In a futuristic world ridden with disease and despair, birthing becomes nearly impossible. Small Offerings tells the story of one researcher’s strong desire to overcome this obstacle while dealing with the chaotic world around her. The controversial subject matter makes this unique and original.
We Will Take Care of Our Own (Angie Hodapp) — It’s election year and the Senator Tia Isandro is ready to discuss new robot-care legislation. Unfortunately, she’s in Elevated Reasoning International’s pocket. When society creates the most important innovation since the toaster oven, the moral obligation to maintain the defective creations is called into question.
Other great stories include the innovative A Song Transmuted by Sarah Pinsker, the action-packed Your Bones Will Not Be Unknown by Alyssa Wong, and Paul Graham Raven’s tale of running in the shadows, Staunch. The cutting edge and diverse nature its stories help Cyber World do for modern sci-fi what Mirrorshades by Bruce Sterling did three decades ago.
In short, I haven’t had this much fun since the last time I was cruising down the spindle with a good rasta dub playing in the background. Or maybe it was that time I ate falafel in the Budayeen? (Ugh, that was a long night.) Anyway, be sure to pick it up or check the bundles for a dedicated soundtrack, t-shirt, and poster. 5/5 - Edge of Infinity (edgeofinfinity.tk) / Follow on Twitter: @edgebookreviews
(This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.)
The stories are challenging, sometimes emotionnally and sometimes even to understand. There are a lot of abbrevations that are not easy to understand for a a person that is not a native english speaker, thankfully google is my friend!
I love the diversity both in characters, locations, sexuality, genre and social norms.
I also liked the illustrations (done by Aaron Lovett) at the beginning of each stories which added a nice touch and made me wondered what these would mean later.
It’s too bad it is not being released for Halloween because it is very dark and brutal at times. Maybe not what I was expecting but when I was three stories in, I better put myself in the mood to appreciate them better.
My favourites were THE SINGULARITY IS IN YOUR HAIR, PANIC CITY and A SONG TRANSMUTED.
SERENADE, by Isabel Yap
I was really hyped about this anthology but was a little bit disappointed with that first one, maybe because of my very hight expectations. But it was a good start nonetheless, a nice slow starting point. That one is about a mysterious USB key, professional Filipino hackers, family ties. It was very humane.
THE MIGHTY PHIN, by Nisi Shawl
A story set in some kind of prison ship in a virtual reality. Phin’s real body was destroyed and her mind was uploaded there so she doubt everything. It was a really nice story about love, with transgender representation, a disabled character (feet deformation) and a really interesting AI.
REACTIONS, by Mario Acevedo
A battle management system, linking human to drones, in a world devastated by a eleven years old war. “A minute ago I was on the other side of the planet,hunting enemy. Now I’m expected to take all that amped-up energy and divert it to house chores.”
So this story deals with the aftereffects of the drugs used to link with the machine. It is quite macabre but in the end it is a story about solidarity and how human interaction is important to survive the hard world we live in.
THE BEES OF KIRIBATI, by Warren Hammond
Kaiko, a translator, is called in to speak to a suspect in a murder case. In this story, people have systems implanted in their brain. “An error message annoyingly vibrated against the back of my skull, a once-a-day warning to upgrade, as if surgery was cheap.”
I thought it was too bad the title actually kinda gave away a big info on what’s going to happen. And the baby farm thing made me very ill at ease.
THE REST BETWEEN TWO NOTES, by Cat Rambo
I really enjoyed Cat Rambo’s collection of short stories (that I reviewed here) so I was very happy when I saw she was in this collection!
The first sentence of that one is “I kill my mother” so uh, right in the mood then!
It’s about the way therapy sessions use a virtual reality but also about the relationships people develop because or thanks to this technology.
THE SINGULARITY IS IN YOUR HAIR, by Matthew Kressel
What and interesting title!
So far it was the first of the anthology that I really enjoyed mostly because of its originality. A young girl is wheelchair bound, she describes herself as a being like a “vegetable” in the meatworld but she builds amazing virtual realities for people and has an interesting relationship with an AI.
PANIC CITY, by Madeline Ashby
That one was from the point of view of a city! Plus it’s a sassy city who judges people on wether they spit on the street or compost their garbage, behaving like a mother with her many babies. It was the most original and I enjoyed it a lot!
THE FAITHFUL SOLDIER, PROMPTED, by Saladin Ahmed
I read Saladin Ahmed’s novel last year and really enjoyed it so I was happy to get to read something else from him, and in a very different genre! I actually came accross this anthology thanks to a retweet he did and I’m very grateful!
In this height story, a veteran goes on a quest to save his dying wife. There are weird messages appearring in his implant and he thinks they are from God. It was very sad but I was captivated.
YOUR BONES WILL NOT BE UNKNOWN, by Alyssa Wong
That story was badass! A young girl assassin is sent by her boss to kill another boss. There were gory parts with eyes but despite that it was really cool.
STAUNCH, by Paul Graham Raven
I was kinda lost by this one unfortunately, there were just too many elements. I got bored but still tried to understand what was going on. It had to do with the medical field and brexit and its concequences are mentionned. But I liked the ending surprisingly. I think I should re-read it one of these days.
OTHER PEOPLE’S THOUGHTS, by Chinelo Onwualu
This story was set in Lagos and is about an hyper empathic woman. It is a love story, in a world where not only physical alterations are possible but personality traits can also be altered. I liked it, very refreshing.
WYSIOMG, by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro
I found this story really weird. I liked that the main character had a very distinctive voice, even if that’s from a stroke that left him with a speech impairment (long sentences with coordinating conjunction like “and” and “but”). This protagonist and his roomates get a very big ant problem and very weird things happen.
WE WILL TAKE CARE OF OUR OWN, by Angie Hodapp
This story was interesting and touching but I guessed what was going on super early, I could see the strings of the narrative. It was a story about a senator in a presidential campaign, holding press conferences with her aide, a robot by her side. Coruption, personal tragedy and artificial intelligence.
A SONG TRANSMUTED, by Sarah Pinsker
I really loved the beautiful relationship between a grand-father and his grand-daughter. It was a really beautiful story about music, technology, wanting more and working towards that goal. In this case it has to do with physical enhancement.
IT’S ONLY WORDS, by Keith Ferrell
Everybody is connected to some kind of virtual world or network but Sem isn’t. He is proud of doing things his way, putting time and effort in it. At times I felt like he thought about himself as better than the others, but there was also beauty in his way to liking being different, like his mother.
SMALL OFFERINGS, by Paolo Bacigalupi
People who know me know I get super incomfortable around babies and everything that is about them, mostly the delivery. So this story wasn’t a pleasure to read for me. It was even awful and horrific at times. Plus I don’t know but it also felt weird that such a story would be written by a man. Like I’m so very tired of scifi using women bodies and possibilities to write weird stories. That also goes for some of my fave shows like Star trek, BSG or DW. I mean I understand that it has interesting possibilities but that’s a no no for me, sorry.
DARKOUT, by E. Lily Yu
Everybody’s life is recorded and everybody is a “peripheral home-cam star“, basically a reality TV star. The main character there is sad not to attract much viewer and blame it on the fact he is a white male and he is obsessed with watching his ex’s home-cam. So to say he is unlikable is an understatement. That one really felt like it could be a Black Mirror episode!
VISIBLE DAMAGE, by Stephen Graham Jones
Set in the far future I guess since 2028 is seen as the dark ages and an actual paper book and a pencil are seen as antiques. I struggled to understand what was going on.
THE IBEX ON THE DAY OF EXTINCTION, by Minister Faust
Another favourite here! It was perfect for an october read because it was so stressful. It is about a kenyan-canadian eco-tech developer roaming the Nigerian desert in a sand rover, planting trees thanks to terraria and neo-tech divining rods. He leave for his usual few days expedition but his phone doesn’t work. You can sense something isn’t right and something bad is coming. It really kept me at the edge of my seat until the end!
HOW NOTHING HAPPENS, by Darin Bradley
That one was a story about a story, also kind of hard to understand for me, but keep in mind I’m not a native english speaker. I think the fact they put it at the end of the anthology is interesting.
The book as a whole all the stories were very short and very different from one another. So it gave me a very good all over read. I wasn't ever bored with it. But I wish that the stories I ended up DNFing would have been better explained.
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