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Quantum Zoo Paperback – August 15, 2014
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On the other hand, there are several stories that capture the imagination and are quite enjoyable. Most are akin to some of the old "Twilight Zone" and "Night Gallery" stories of Rod Serling fame. While I enjoyed all of the rest to some degree, I think my favorites are "Skipdrive" and "Ignoble Deeds". Skipdrive is a story that brings one full circle on a story arc, though you don't realize it until the end. Ignoble Deeds looks into a concept I have never seen brought up in a story before. It is also a good story of misdirection. "Bestiarum" brings out a concept that could be a possibility, especially if Man ever travels to distant stars in a generational ship. "The Most Dangerous Lies" is an enjoyable story where historical figures can be time-kidnapped and put on display. Eighteenth-century scheming and deviousness meets with futuristic capabilities.
All in all, it was a book worth my time, especially since most stories were quick to read. It may not be a five-star read, but it is enjoyable as a shorter diversion between novels.
But after reading "Quantum Zoo", I feel healed of my aversion. This collection is absolutely amazing, with stories ranging from the deeply moving to the terrifying to the "oh s***, how clever!". Many of them I still think about today, months after finishing the tales. There were a few that fell a little flat in my eyes, but they were in such magnificent company, it would be hard not to.
Unfortunately, I can't describe in detail a lot of the different stories for fear of spoilers. The zoo theme means that a lot of the stories have twist endings or surprise plot changes midway through, and I'd hate to ruin that. Fun fact: For most of the book, I didn't even realize that the stories were supposed to have a zoo theme, because I apparently can't read covers or summaries. (Good job, Mandaray!) While that doesn't say much about me, I feel it does say a lot about the subtlety and skill with which the authors in this anthology write their tales.
At first blush, you might think there are only so many ways for characters to find themselves in a zoo, and the ways you'd get there might be pretty cheesy. But not so in QZ. Instead of taking the easier route and just making it all about strange creatures in futuristic cages, QZ goes out of its way to examine how zoos make people feel. Everyone has their own way of looking at zoos, their own unique perspectives that can span across any time or place. Zoos also hold a special place in our culture, and a lot of the stories examine the feelings behind that as well. Some even create entirely new cultures, place the zoos in them, and then examine how that works. Again, I don't want to say too much for fear of spoilers, but QZ really takes the reader on a multitude of amazing, intriguing journeys; many of which I didn't think were even possible.
In short: This is a fantastic anthology that you should read as soon as you can. To me, it epitomizes the true soul of sci-fi: Expanding the mind of the person consuming it, and exploring what makes us human...or what makes us abandon our humanity. Fan or no of anthologies or even sci-fi, I still strongly encourage you to pick this up. There is so much variety to be found here that I truly believe there is a story in here for everyone.
The stories here vary in length, with the longest being,“Skipdrive”, which is a good read of about 80 pages. The rest are 40 pages or less, with a couple that have less than 10 pages.
Like any anthology there are some good stories here. The first, King in Exile, I really enjoyed as it reads like an Edgar Rice Burroughs piece. “Bestiarum” is well written, though felt a little preachy. “At Home in the Stars” was a fun read with some laugh out loud moments.
If the order of the stories was reversed or either of the last two stories had been the first offering I may have missed out on some fun reads. “Your Day at the Zoo” is written in 2nd person point of view and I don’t like that mode of storytelling. “Serpent’s Foe” is about a shape-shifting Egyptian princess and comes from the page very scattered.
You may disagree, that’s what makes reading anthologies fun for me, I know going in I may read something that doesn’t do it for me though I may find an author I want to read more of.
But the later stories, for various reasons, didn't work for me. "Playing Man" felt cliched with a greedy corporation, yadda times three. "Skipdrive" didn't have a solid ending, "Your Day at the Zoo" is second person PoV and kinda runs off the rails, and "Serpent's Foe" never quite came together.
Funny, how the dividing line between the stories I liked and those I didn't is so sharp. We'll call this one three stars.