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Destination: Future Paperback – February 24, 2010
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First contact, space opera, and adventure are prevalent components. The science is, as expected, a strong factor in the stories. What is also exciting about this group of stories, is that the environments and the characters are just as important. We explore these new worlds through the eyes of characters we come to know and understand. Their needs, desires, and values are laid before us. We feel for them.
There are stories of destruction. Wars have taken a toll on cultures. Cultures have ravaged environments. We explore refugee cultures that relocated ages before.
This anthology doesn't rely on first contact stories alone. No. We have continued contact stories as well. We see the results of culture clashes where the weaker must find ways to co-exist under a heavy yolk. In contrast, there are stories where multiple cultures are living in peace if not harmony. Respectful acceptance of the other exists in the backdrop. Exploration of new ideas, values, and roles do come across in many of the stories.
There are stories of survival. Leaving a legacy, in many different ways, appears as a common drive. Self-preservation in the face of adversity is explored, costs are weighed. The need to connect and communicate along with the need to understand and be understood is explored at length and to the point it feels like an underlying theme.
In many cases, the stories in this anthology served as a break from my darker reading. They were no less complex, but the editors wove the fabric of the stories together with a sense of wonder and stitches here and there of brilliant, unexpected humor. The last half of the anthology felt a little darker for me and a bit more desperate for the characters. Several stories had my heart racing. More than a few made me rush to the end as fast as I could and some left me wishing for more. I read some of them to my son. There is one in particular in which he has charged me with finding out more. Two stories in particular disturbed me greatly. That is not an easy accomplishment.
Let me also take a moment to discuss the vibrant and absolutely fitting cover art by Edward R. Norden. The cover was striking enough that it often caught my son's attention. It sparked many discussions about aliens and the contents of the anthology in particular. He pressed me to identify the story the cover directly relates to. I honestly couldn't. The search was fun though. I'd be reading along and get the urge to consult the cover to see if the character description was a match. I am not generally a cover person and often find that depictions of characters on the front spoil some element for me. This was absolutely not the case here and therefore requires mentioning.
Destination Future is a strong, entertaining 300+ page anthology. It whisks us away as we read, has us fighting for our lives, longing for love and a place to belong, communicating with rainbows, and exploring even our own human experience with a different perspective. If you are a fan of hard science fiction, you are well-covered. If you are not, like me, so well versed in science fiction, you will find plenty here to enjoy just the same. It is a beautiful, at times tragic, often thrilling, and even uplifting anthology.
"No Jubjub Birds Tonight" by Sara Genge
This was a strong opening story. I loved the way the friendship between the two main characters develops based on respect earned and learned. The steampunk elements and the Lewis Carroll references were perfect.
"The Embians" by K.D. Wentworth
This was one of the stories that explored deeper levels of communication. The main character wanted to know more, to understand. It was also a story of self-exploration and the desire to belong. The ending thrilled me.
"Ambassador" by Thoraiya Dyer
This is another story where color plays a role in communication. The interaction of the characters in this story is very interesting. I like how two in particular balance each other. I pondered the drive for a legacy as I read along.
"Edge of the World" by Jonathan Shipley
Imagine encountering someone you were once briefly involved with out in deep space. It proves an awkward moment for an ambitious student who needs to achieve among alien peers that may indeed outmatch him. Does he gain his footing by the end of the story? It is fun finding out.
"Games" by Caren Gussoff
This story achieves a slow build while maintaining a sense of cold distance. Chess is a perfect metaphor. The end is sharp.
"The Hangborn" by Fredrick Obermeyer
The momentum and the will to survive propel the reader swinging along through the trees. The unveiling of the full circumstances of the characters is slow, yet timely. It is a love story at heart.
"One Awake in All The World" by Robert T. Jeschonek
While this story has a romantic subplot, the main story centers on a lone survivor and two escorts that attempt to aid her in finding where she belongs. It moves slowly, but the payoff is grand.
"Alienation" by Katherine Sparrow
In this story, we see Earth life through the eyes of visitors. It isn't just a slice of life though. The author explores the human body and journeys through its lifespan. The encounter is quietly accomplished and locally contained, which I felt made it all the more personal.
"Dark Rendezvous" by Simon Petrie
AI with attitude adds humor to this story with a striking ending.
"Monuments of Flesh and Stone" by Mike Resnick
This is a different approach to the question of legacy. The story involves a sports recruiter, an athlete with great potential, and a place that wants a star by which to navigate.
"Hope" by Michael A. Burstein
A time traveler in deep space has to convince a captain of his sincerity as he explains the great peril ahead. The reaction of the captain was plausible and I bought right in.
"Watching" by Sandra McDonald
I could see this story working out on the big screen as I read along. The author put her characters in positions that made you ache for them. They had choices to make and none of them were easy. Can you trust the orders given? Are you getting the full details from those in charge? Should you blindly follow them? What would you be willing to sacrifice either way?
"Encountering Evie" by Sherry D. Ramsey
This was another love story. Love is timeless. It is boundless. Longing for someone meant for you and feeling that sense of belonging are central to this story. I found myself hoping for a reunion.
"Memento Mori" by Sue Blalock
History and cultures collide. I know a few archeologists that might enjoy this story. It was tender at times and raw in other sections. This story moved very slow for me. Yet, it was powerful.
"The Gingerbread Man" by James Gunn
The ending for this story felt almost too fast and tidy. However, I think that could be just me. When you have a full on epiphany, you often act on it immediately. You don't stew over it for days, eroding the strength of its message. This story touched on the personal isolation technology can promote, accommodate, and also diminish. It also contrasts technological improvements with the power of one's sense of self, one's reason, and one's emotions. What can be replicated or re-engineered?
"The Angel of Mars" by Michael Barretta
This was an interesting story involving artificial intelligence and how it might evolve on its own. I thought of the Mars rover as I read on. The end is chilling.
"When You Visit The Magoesbaskloof Hotel Be Certain Not to Miss the Samango Monkeys" by Elizabeth Bear
This story layers a childhood memory in with a situation the rapidly grows precarious for the main character. The added context is wonderful. The framing increases the tension.
"The Light Stones" by Erin E. Stocks
As I admitted above, this was one of the stories that disturbed. It was a plus for me and unexpected until encountered.
"Rubber Monkeys" by Kenneth Mark Hoover
I freely admit I had no idea where this story was going. I didn't see it coming. It was a good application for the question of respecting a culture apart from your own. It was also a nice display of immediate maneuvering when there is little time to sort through such a question and the ramifications. Beyond that, it was quite unsettling. Part of that effect was accomplished by brushing in emotion.
"Jadeflower" by C.E. Grayson
The author makes it easy to empathize with the characters in this story. The sense of being trapped in an environment that destroys families because this is where the work is and the family must be fed is well conveyed. A caretaker sibling's emotions ring genuine as well. This was another story where I did not expect the ending.
"Mars Needs Baby Seals" by Lawrence M. Schoen
I am a fan of the way this author deals with travel and other futuristic things. He often comes up with concepts that propel me into deep thought. And I find his fiction humorous. This story was no exception. While there is a quiet environmental message and a sense of urgency, the reader gets to chuckle along the way.