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Federations Paperback – 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Accomplished editor Adams (The Living Dead) explores a host of galaxy-spanning empires in this breathtakingly rich anthology. Lois McMaster Bujold's elegant, elegiacal masterpiece Aftermaths brings grace and sorrow into the silence between stars. Clever and subtle, Alan Dean Foster's Pardon Our Conquest examines how diplomacy is perceived by the losing side. Even Harry Turtledove's Someone Is Stealing the Great Throne Rooms of the Galaxy far surpasses what one might expect from the pun-filled adventures of a space hamster named Rufus Q. Shupilluliumash. Newer writers also contribute standouts: Trent Hergenrader's Eskhara is poignant, masterful and terrifyingly relevant to modern life, Georgina Li's Like They Always Been Free is a harsh, bright vision of futuristic love and Catherynne M. Valente's Golubush, or Wine-Blood-War-Elegy smoothly transforms mundane copywriting into a linked series of flash fictions. Superior writing, fantastic storytelling and creative adherence to the theme will keep readers enthralled. (July)
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"Breathtakingly rich [...] Superior writing, fantastic storytelling and creative adherence to the theme will keep readers enthralled." -Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"Federations is definitely one of those anthologies that offers something for everyone. [...] the stories in Federations mostly keep a very human perspective on the hugeness and strangeness of a galaxy teeming with life. And that's reason enough to sign on to its galactic charter."- io9.com
"For this anthology of twenty-four stories, editor John Joseph Adams tasked some of the brightest luminaries of speculative fiction to write stories of vast, galaxy-spanning empires. [...] By mixing writers with great experience in with newer authors, Adams captures both the feel of the old pulp magazines and the practical elements of the ever-changing science of astronomy and space travel. ... Editor Adams has collected both the finest writers and their finest tales in the definitive volume of vast, epic, interstellar Federations." - Sacramento Book Review
"Where the book shines is with the original stories, many of which are by quite new writers. [...] The mix--of old and new stories, of newer and more established writers, and of tones and styles--is vigorous and impressive." - Locus Magazine
Top customer reviews
A few stories are quite disturbing because they make you think rather seriously about how human society might endure the next few thousand years. Others fill you with hope, providing a hopeful peek at what a bright and positive future might be like. Though some of the stories are bland, this is an anthology produced by a group of experienced storytellers and is well worth the read.
The "dust jacket description" of this anthology pretty much sums it up... It collects a few different modern takes on the classic science fiction trope: What does it take; what does it mean for a civilization to be interstellar and/or pan-galactic?
My take of Federations, it gets a composite rating of 3.9130 (individual stories below)
* "Mazer in Prison" (Orson Scott Card): 3/5
» About what you'd expect from Card. So it doesn't disappoint but it doesn't exactly thrill, either.
* "Carthago Delenda Est" (Genevieve Valentine): 4/5
* "Life Suspension" (L. E. Modesitt, Jr.): 2.5/5
* "Terra-Exulta" (S.L. Gilbow): 3/5
» Reminds me a bit of that Stephen King piece that opens Wastelands. The letter-writing format is a tough one to write in and I appreciate the effort here. And I don't dislike this piece but it seems... too short? or just that its hand is tipped too early and that kind of blows the ending a bit?
* "Aftermaths" (Lois McMaster Bujold): 4/5
* "Someone is Stealing the Great Throne Rooms of the Galaxy" (Harry Turtledove): 2/5
» Not terribly intriguing, and a little puerile/juvenile. To me... I can see why it was included (for the variety and for the perspective it brings) but it just doesn't do it. Not for me.
* "Prisons" (Kevin J. Anderson & Doug Beason): 2.5/5
» So much potential, and almost good; but why did I wind up feeling like it needed to be more subversive? (E.g., so many heteronormative relationships!--if the prison revolt leader had been lovers with another man, well now maybe that might have been a little more intriguing.)
* "Different Day" (K. Tempest Bradford): 5/5
* "Twilight of the Gods" (John C. Wright): 4/5
» The Tolkien-esque language can be a little off-putting at first but it really starts to make sense after you get about a third of the way in.
* "Warship" (George R. R. Martin and George Guthridge): 5/5
» I can't imagine why it took so long for Martin to shop this piece--unless Guthridge really brought that much to it. The execution is very spot-on.
* "Swanwatch" (Yoon Ha Lee): 4/5
» I want to like this more. It's beautiful but a bit oblique--and that's fine but somehow it doesn't jump to where it needs to be.
* "Spirey and the Queen" (Alastair Reynolds): 5/5
» Awesome. Did you like Watts' Blindsight? Did you like Sterling's "Swarm"? A little bit like that. (Only robots.)
* "Pardon Our Conquest" (Alan Dean Foster): 3.5/5
* "Symbiont" (Robert Silverberg): 4.5/5
» Highly disurbing; more so than I thought it would be. (Just read this one; skip the introduction.)
* "The Ship Who Returned" (Anne McCaffrey): 4/5
* "My She" (Mary Rosenblum): 4.5/5
» Brilliant. Nicely subversive and almost perfect.
* "The Shoulders of Giants" (Robert J. Sawyer): 2.5/5
* "The Culture Archivist" (Jeremiah Tolbert): 5/5
» This one is funny in the way that "Someone is Stealing..." (vida supra) could/should have been.
* "The Other Side of Jordan" (Allen Steele): 4.5/5
» Serves a little bit as a reminder that one of the things you're going for (when you're going for sci-fi) is the "deep milieu". This has got it. And I love it for it.
* "Like They Always Been Free" (Georgina Li): 4/5
» Very dense; worthwhile.
* "Eskhara" (Trent Hergenrader): 5/5
» The allegory bits are obvious but rather than detract, they make it all very worth while.
* "The One with the Interstellar Group Consciousnesses" (James Alan Gardner): 4/5
» Cute, and a bit novel, but kind of like an artisan soda: not really bad for you but not really necessary but damn tasty but kind of a cloying aftertaste?
* "Golubash, or Wine-War-Blood-Elegy" (Catherynne M. Valente): 4.5/5
» A little on the oblique side but the framing for the story is absolutely killer.
But THIS collection is simply awful...clunkers across the board as far as I'm concerned. I had high hopes since the subject matter (interstellar federations) is favorite...but frankly it was not to be.
There are 23 stories here. I couldn't stand any of them.
Okay, there are a few really good stories, like Robert Silverberg’s “Symbiont,” and Orson Scott Card’s “Mazer in Prison,” and Lois Bujold’s “Aftermaths.” But there are far more clunkers, several of which I couldn’t even get halfway through before moving on to the next one. It’s worth an afternoon of your time, but get it from the library.