Review: Cosmic Powers
It feels like I’ve been reading a lot of short fiction lately. Well, more than usual anyhow. There’s something about the quick in and quick out that’s attracting me right now for some reason. Perhaps it’s because I’ve run into a dearth of new novels from my favorite authors and I need to find some new sources for brilliant storytelling. It’s kind of a disquieting feeling for me to not have something in my queue that I’m ridiculously excited to read. This anthology definitely fit the bill, and it was science fiction to boot, which is a genre I’m always looking to fill with new favorites. And this time around, I think I might have found one or two. Praise.
COSMIC POWERS (Amazon) was edited by John Joseph Adams and contains a fairly-large scattering of stories around galaxy-spanning concepts and ideas. It tries to focus at the heart of what science fiction should be. The stories that make you think; that give you that wow-factor. And as long as they put a good, strong dose of character into the mix, I should be able to get to the point where that wow-factor can begin to sink in and make a difference.
The stories in this anthology varied pretty widely in my level of enjoyment:
- Loved: 2
- Liked: 3
- Mediocre: 6
- Didn’t Like: 3
- Hated: 4
So, a fairly even spread across the board, perhaps slightly skewed in the direction of the negative. Looking back at those that I really didn’t care for, they mostly fell into one of three categories. Either they were:
- a. over-the-top corny (the largest number),
- b. had poor or no characterization, or
- c. were confusing, vague, and lacking necessary detail.
I guess I just don’t go in for cheesy or corny stories that are ridiculously goof-ball hokey. Perhaps that’s just my personality leaking through here. I definitely have a sense of humor that tends toward the dark and sarcastic rather than the clownish. Thus, readers who enjoy the corny kind of stories would likely find this anthology quite good, as very few of the stories overall had anything approaching what I’d call bad writing.
Some of my favorites were:
“The Frost Giant’s Data” by Dan Abnett: The last in the book, but by far my favorite of the bunch. A man is hired to infiltrate a moon that is the base of an information baron. The security for the moon was built by the man doing the infiltrating. He’s trying to get information about whether the motives of an alien race are above-board with respect to their signing of a peace treaty. Really, really good.
“The Deckhand, the Nova Blade, and the Thrice-Sung Texts” by Becky Chambers: A low-born hick in the galactic marines is identified as “the chosen one” to kill the queen of the alien force that is overrunning humanity. Told as diary entries. In the first entry she is ranting because she found out that someone else is reading them despite the fact that her diary should be private. Wavers a bit in the middle, but won me out in the end.
“Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance” by Tobias S. Buckell: A robot working on the external surface of a spaceship finds a CEO from a rival company after a hostile takeover. The robot is constrained by programming to obey the human, and eventually he helps the CEO get to where he wants to go. Only not in the way the CEO wanted. Beginning was pretty rough, but ended really good.
“Golden Ring” by Karl Schroeder: The physical avatar of a laser-sun has returned to point at a sub-planet after many years to try and atone for “turning her light away”. She finds a single man awake, and everyone else in hibernation. Focuses a lot on existentialism and the possibility that nothing we do matters because all choices have been made before in some way/shape/form/dimension. Pretty deep sci-fi, but I liked it.
I’m starting to see a pattern in my tastes with regard to Buckell and Schroeder, and reading something from Dan Abnett was completely new for me. All three of these guys have now been promoted to my “read more of this stuff” list.
On the whole, not an anthology that I would have bought and been happy about on the back end of the experience, but as I mentioned, if you go in for science fiction stories that are more on the corny-humorous side of the spectrum, you may very well love the thing.
- Recommended Age: 14+
- Language: Not a lot, but strong when it was there
- Violence: A bunch of large-scale death, but very little of the up-close and personal type
- Sex: Some mild content, but only in a few of the stories