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Humanity 2.0 Paperback – November 24, 2016
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Robert Silverberg's story stands out asunforgettable and of great importance in showing the potential danger ofmeeting extraterrestrial intelligent beings.
--Forest Shultz, New Science Fiction an Fantasy Reviews
All in all, anyone interested in this anthology's theme will likely enjoy it.
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This variation on Pogo's intentional misquote, with diverse possible readings, may be my best way to briefly summarize the scope and great diversity of this remarkable anthology.
As suggested by its title, it is about the future evolution of humanity, a future in which it should still be, somehow, humanity. It is not so much transhumanism, often thought of as meaning transformed or "improved" humans, but rather traditional humanism, more in a cultural sense, in the context of a changing humanity, changing socially, physically, or intellectually (so transhumanism is there too). Indeed most of the stories raise a wide variety of questions about ethics, or what makes us human, or the acceptability of change and how to organize our lives in a changing context.
The editor, Alex Shvartsman, did a great job of selecting stories, often from top authors (just count the awards they collected together), covering in surprising ways a vide variety of changes in humanity, induced by time, environment, or social structure, occurring naturally or being deliberately implemented, resulting from genetic changes or techonogical implants, up to completely artificial bodies, or even symbiosis with other entities (after all, some 3% of our body is already symbiotic). Despite the strangeness, and the short format, many of these story have real depth in characters and plot.
Regarding the stories, I like Liu's "The waves", for the story, the questions raised, and also for emphasizing the wave paradigm, not so often accounted for, which I have actually seen used in algorithmic design. But my preferred stories were Varley's "Picnic on Nearside", and Resnick's bittersweet "The Homecoming". I always was a fan of Varley, while this is (surprisingly) my first Resnick story (I will be reading more). But this is not to disparage the other great and varied stories found in the anthology. The most upsetting one is probably Rambo's "Angry Rose’s lament", but see for yourself.
The funniest idea is in the last story, Sawyer's "Star Light, Star Bright", though being only a minor aspect of the story (I wonder whether the author thought out some of the more mundane consequences). Silverberg's "The iron star" story is a bit surprising as it seems completely off topic. I guess the intent was to give, through actual aliens, a counter-example, an example of what would make humanity cease to be itself, beyond changes. Shoemaker's "Green girl blues" is a nice enjoyable story, but I felt that the SF aspect is mostly veneer, not so essential to the story though in keeping with the general theme. I was a bit at loss with Zinos-Amaro's "e^h" which I did not understand. I could follow the story, but did not really get what happens in the end, or why, or what had started it. It feels like a good story left unfinished.
I cannot comment them all, though many more are calling for attention with very original concepts. It is good that they are mostly on the optimistic side, despite a few exceptions, such as Schneyer's "A lack of congenial solutions".
It was a great reading, and it made me think of authors who could have been included. Tanith Lee's "Don't bite the sun" comes to mind, though I do not know of a short story in that universe. But mostly I am thinking of Cordwainer Smith who was so concerned with humanism beyond humanity.
“What will it mean to be human in the future?” asks the cover blurb for Humanity 2.0.
Fifteen authors provide fifteen distinctive, wildly differing, extremely thought-provoking stories which each present a unique vision of the possibilities.
Each and every story is worth savoring as if it were a fabulous fifteen course meal. You will want to let each story settle after reading, roll around in your mind for a while, and open new pathways for ideas, before you start on the next one. It is worth taking the time to enjoy the journey.
My favorite stories were “The Iron Star” by Robert Silverberg, “Green Girl Blues” by Martin L. Shoemaker, and “The Wave” by Ken Liu.
Short thoughts on each story:
“The Waves” by Ken Liu 5 stars
A lyrical tale which illustrates how stories are an integral part of our humanity, in whatever form it takes.
“Justice and Shadow” by Angus McIntyre 4 stars
Thought-provoking. The narrative made visualization of the sail ship blossom slowly as the story progressed.
“Nexus” by Nancy Fulda 4 stars
A lovely story. I would be thrilled to read more about Tyra’s and Zek’s adventures.
“A Lack of Conventional Solutions” by Kenneth Schneyer 4 stars
A vision of humans as the problem and not the solution.
“Green Girl Blues” by Martin L. Shoemaker 5 stars
Excellent adventure tale in the noir style.
“Mindjack” by Jody Lynn Nye 4 stars
This is what dreams are made of.
“Picnic on Nearside” by John Varley 5 stars
Draws you in immediately and doesn’t let go. This story will linger in your mind.
“An Endless Series of Doors” by David Walton 3 stars
What would you do if money were no object?
“Angry Rose’s Lament” by Cat Rambo 4 stars
An excellent story about individual choices.
“The Right Place to Start a Family” by Caroline M. Yoachim 3 stars
Stay here or keep looking for a better place? The choices we make.
“The Iron Star” by Robert Silverberg 5 stars
Brilliant story. Pragmatism at its finest.
“Eh” by Alvarao Zinos-Amaro 4 stars
Intriguing story, very well-written.
“The Hand on the Cradle” by Brenda Cooper 5 stars
Such a large universe contained in such a short story. Wonderful and thought-provoking.
“The Homecoming” by Mike Resnick 5 stars
Haunting and heart-warming.
“Star Light, Star Bright” by Robert J. Sawyer 4 stars
Chickens. Wait for it. Nice story.