Genre : Science fiction
Publisher : Titan Books
Length : 336 pages
Format : eARC
Rating : 4 stars
Publication Date : November 24th 2020
Celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of cutting-edge science fiction from the hit podcast, Escape Pod. Escape Pod has been bringing the finest short fiction to millions of ears all over the world, at the forefront of a new fiction revolution.
This anthology gathers together fifteen stories, including new and exclusive work from writers such as from Cory Doctorow, Ken Liu, Mary Robinette Kowal, T. Kingfisher and more. From editors Mur Laffterty and S.B. Divya comes the science fiction collection of the year, bringing together bestselling authors in celebration of the publishing phenomenon that is, Escape Pod.
Escape Pod, a science fiction podcast, is now 15 years old! To celebrate, the Escape Pod team and Titan Books have assembled fifteen stories by famous authors to create this collection. Some stories are reprints, others are original to the anthology. I love reading short fiction so when I saw the list of contributors, I was over the moon. From Ken Liu to N.K. Jemisin, T. Kingfisher, Mary Robinette Kowall, John Scalzi, Kameron Hurley and more, this anthology has it all!
The selection of stories is also very broad and diverse. All the stories are SF but they are all completely different from one another. Some stories are funny like Tim Pratt’s A Princess of Nigh-Space and T. Kingfisher’s Report of Dr. Hollowmas on the Incident at Jackrabbit Five, others are wholesome like the adorable Lions and Tigers and Girlfriends by Tina Connolly and others are angry commentaries about our society like N.K. Jemisin’s Give me Cornbread or Give Me Death or Maurice Broaddus’s City of Refuge.
Since the selection is so broad, some stories worked better for me than others. However, even the stories that I didn’t enjoy were well-written, they were just not to my taste like Fourth Nail by Mur Lafferty, a short story set in her Six Wakes world and that kind of completely spoiled Six Wakes? I might be completely wrong since I haven’t read the book but it seemed to be set after the end of the novel and it didn’t stand well on its own. Another miss was Alien Animal Encounters by John Scalzi. I have read several of Scalzi’s short stories and they tend to be hit or miss for me. Sometimes his humor works for me, sometimes it doesn’t and… it was the latter for this story.
Except for these two, I liked most of the stories and I really liked or loved the others! I am not going to talk about all the stories in detail because it would be very tedious to read (and to write about!) but here are my five favorites:
A Princess of Nigh-Space by Tim Pratt – 4.5*
Tamsin, a woman who just inherited the fortune of her grandmother, receives mysterious cards from Bollard and Chicane, two famous assassins who may or may not come from another dimension. And in this dimension, Tamsin isn’t a coder but a… princess?
This story is my first encounter with Tim Pratt’s works and I loved it. It’s very absurd but some moments were extremely funny and I really liked the unexpected twists and turns of this story!
Lions and Tigers and Girlfriends by Tina Connolly – 5*
This story was another absolute delight. Most science fiction short stories deal with very heavy themes and issues and it’s rare for me to giggle while reading or to feel very happy and hopeful at the end. However, it was the case with this story, it was geeky, goofy and adorable and I loved it.
It follows a theater nerd living on a spaceship as she assembles a theater troop to play a new and improved version of The Wizard of Oz, with lots of battles, flying cats and revolutionary angry teenagers. What more can I say about it? It was great. 😀
City of Refuge by Maurice Broaddus – 5*
On a completely different note, I really loved City of Refuge. Set in a world where the rich left Earth to live on terraformed planets and only the people who couldn’t afford remain on the dying planet. The main character is an ex-convict who is trying to build back his life but the entire world wants him to fail.
This story enraged me, I especially hated with a passion a character who is supposed to help ex-convicts but who only makes their life harder. However, I loved how it depicted the fact that some people are always left behind and how they have to live with the decisions made by people richer (and usually whiter) than them. City of Refuge is a powerful story and sadly way too relevant in 2020…
Give Me Cornbread or Give Me Death by N.K. Jemisin – 4.5*
This story by N.K. Jemisin deals with similar themes than City of Refuge like race, discrimination and injustice. However, even if both stories have similaries, I would highly recommend reading them both! I don’t want to say too much about this one because it would ruin the experience but if you like N.K. Jemisin and you like reading about dragons, you will love Give Me Cornbread or Give Me Death. 😉
The Machine that Would Rewild Humanity by Tobias Buckell – 4.5*
Finally, my last highlight is a story by Tobias Buckell. Set in a world where humans can only be seen in zoos and AIs rule the planet, this story follow a robot who works in a rehabilitation organization that wants to reintroduce humanity in New York.
I’ve never read a story with this kind of premise and I absolutely loved the idea and how it was executed. The themes explored were fascinating, the pacing was perfect and I loved how it ended. Buckell is an amazing short fiction writer and I ought to read more of his works!
I really enjoyed this anthology, I’m not an Escape Pod listener since I prefer reading short fiction rather than listening to it but now, I think I have to give the podcast a try!
I really appreciated how broad and diverse the selection of stories was and, even if some stories worked better than others, I wouldn’t add or remove any stories. I would definitely recommend this anthology, especially for readers who want to give short fiction a try. 😊
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own. My thanks to Titan Books for providing me with a review copy.
Artwork by Tithi Luadthong from 123RF.com