July 23, 2014

Review: Far Orbit: Speculative Space Adventures

Anthology Title: Far Orbit: Speculative Space Adventures
Editor: Bascomb James; Featuring an open letter to SF by Elizabeth Bear
Published: April 29, 2014
Publisher: World Weaver Press
Paperback: 290 pgs

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Modern space adventures crafted by a new generation of Grand Tradition science fiction writers. Smart, readable, and engaging stories that take us back to a time when science fiction was fun and informative, pithy and piquant—when speculative fiction transported us from the everyday grind and left us wondrously satisfied. Showcasing the breadth of Grand Tradition stories, from 1940s-style pulp to realistic hard SF, from noir and horror SF to spaceships, alien uplift, and action-adventure motifs, Far Orbit’s diversity of Grand Tradition stories makes it easy for every SF fan to find a favorite.

Put aside all of your preconceived notions of what "sci-fi" is -- whether you think you love it or hate, it doesn't matter -- pick up this book and get to reading!

I have not enjoyed a sci-fi read this much in a really long time. Far Orbit takes the dreary, normally battle-filled genre and turns it completely on its head. With stories that are fun, hilarious and unexpected, there was a new adventure at every turn. I also loved the tidbits of history that preceded each chapter. It's always easy to forget how a genre has changed over the course of the years.

I have two favorite aspects of this anthology:
1) The fact that there was so much diversity. Not just by race and gender (which was so refreshing), but by the characters' backgrounds as well -- there were stories about entrepreneurs, ones about martians, ones about pirates (yes, pirates in space) -- I mean, there is never a lack of excitement when no two settings are alike.

2) The characters were believable and fleshed out -- even in such short stories -- not an easy feat, I can assure you! Each character could have had their very own spinoff and you would've wanted to read each one. It amazed me how these authors were able to cram so many wonderful character flaws and traits into so little time. Loved them all!

Stories in this Anthology (my favorites are starred, although they're all good!):

Open for Business by Sam S. Kepfield
Three men decide to make a millions of dollars by mining a space asteroid...but first, they have to bring it to Earth.

Composition in Death Minor by K. G. Jewell 
Sophie, a cellist and assassin who sees the world through music. We follow her as she attempts to assassinate someone on one of Jupiter’s moons. 

* Spaceman Barbecue by Peter Wood
Commander Matt Brannigan gets trapped in an alternate reality when his ship crashes behind Hank’s trailer. Hank, who has been depressed since the death of his father, finds a way to save the day for both himself and Commander Brannigan.

* Obsidianite by Kat Otis 
Janessa is a freelance trader who is forced to choose between saving herself or saving the pregnant girlfriend of her ex-boyfriend on an erupting volcano. 

Starship Down by Tracy Canfield
Okalani Yee is a xenobiologist running a med-station on a planet inhabited by alien bunnies. 

Backscatter by Gregory Benford 
Claire learns that life might emerge under the most unlikely conditions.

* A Game of Hold’em by Wendy Sparrow
Matt, a businessman, is forced to play a game of poker with a potential partner (who also happens to be extremely dangerous). His opponent, a slave owner, rigs the game with a female slave as the dealer. Will Matt intentionally lose the game to earn more business; or will he turn the tables on his enemy?

From a Stone by Eric Choi 
A group of scientists exploring an asteroid find more than they bargained for. 

Charnelhouse by Jonathan Shipley
Doctor Charnelhouse and his wife, Beth, visit an alien planet along to search an alien burial ground when the unexpected occurs. 

* Bear Essentials by Julie Frost
Captain Russ accepts a job transporting a live bear from one planet to another. At least...that's what he thinks...turns out the job is not as simple as he thought. 

* The Vringla/Racket Incident by Jakob Drud 
Emails sent back and forth between Johanna Wilborough and a babysitting service that employs aliens.

* A Trip to Lagasy by Barbara Davies
Kira Walsh is searching for a unique orchid when she encounters her nemesis (and ex), Jules Steger. Walsh had found out 5 years earlier that Steger was a fraud, taking credit for the work of others. 

Saturn Slingshot by David Wesley Hill 
Space pirates attack a space ship traveling through Saturn's rings.  

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