So I downloaded the 6 novellas that make up Amazon’s new Forward Collection, which appears to be a collection of sci-fi short stories by known authors (even though I have never anything by most of them). You can read them for free if you’re a Prime customer.
I decided I will read them one each morning over a week and review them as I read them, but wait to post all reviews in one post. I will do it this way because these are short, and I don’t want to spoil them, as at least the first one I read was a delight and I think you should read it too. 🙂
Emergency Skin by N.K. Jamesin ****
This post-apocalyptical story was such a delight. And it is told in 2nd person narration, which is definitely something new to me. I did not think I would enjoy it, but I’ve been thoroughly proven wrong.
An explorer from a colonized planet is being sent back to the ruins of Earth to gather information centuries after they have abandoned the ravaged planet which was self-destructing. Along with him comes the AI voice in his head, a collective of the best minds, which will help clarify things and guide him in his mission.
This story took me completely by surprise. It is smart and wonderful, and maybe even a little political and I am here for it. I might have to find out what else this author has actually written.
Ark by Veronica Roth ***
Another apocalyptical story – pre/peri-apocalyptical this time. Samantha is an horticulturist, cataloguing flora in the Artic Circle with one of the last groups of people to leave the planet which is about to be destroyed.
The story is told in parallel between the current time and flashbacks, which makes you slowly understand what is going on with our protagonist.
Personally, I didn’t really connect with the main character but the story was still interesting. It’s a perfectly good short story.
Rand0m1ze by Andy Weir ***
So for my third story in this collection, I went for something far less apocalyptic, and which I cannot be sure can even be classified as science fiction. I mean, quantum computers are/will be a thing, aren’t they? I don’t know, I’m not fully computer-literate, so this might as well be real life.
Anyway, this story follows a casino on the day quantum computing becomes a popularized thing and it discusses how this could impact gambling machines since no computer-based random generator is really random at all. It was instructive.
The story itself has a bit of a twist, which I found quite ingenious, but overall it was fine as a story. I enjoyed it well enough.
You have arrived at your destination by Amor Towles ****
So we have officially left the apocalypse behind and have clearly entered Black Mirror territory. This story freaked me out a bit.
It is all about a man who has decided to try genetically-enhanced IVF, and who is seeing the 3 options pre-chosen by his wife for their son could be. The idea of how much of one’s life can be predicted is scary, but it sounds so real that it got under my skin.
Again, this is very short so I do not want to give any more away, but this story was pretty good. I was a little confused with the ending, but I still enjoyed it very very much.
The Last Conversation by Paul Tremblay ***
Another Black Mirror-ish story, but this one told in 2nd person narrative. And contrary to the way Emergency Skin made me feel, this one fulfilled the expectations I would have originally had of 2nd person narrative: it is not for me.
I imagine the point of 2nd person narrative is to make the reader feel engaged to the protagonist, but in this story I felt completely alienated from the characters. I also could tell right from the start what was going on, even if the main character acted like it was some sort of big reveal at the end.
There is not much I can say without spoiling it, just that even though I am not a big sci-fi reader I could still see through the story, so don’t expect a surprise. Overall, this was another short story in this collection that was fine.
Summer Frost by Blake Crouch ****
WTF did I just read? I am not sure how to take this, to be honest. This story took me for a ride. It felt exactly like watching a Black Mirror episode.
As the longest short story in this collection, I almost DNF’d this in the first few pages. I’m actually later than I expected because I kept putting it off after reading the first page and a half. It’s videogame related and I really don’t like books about videogames – they tend to bore me – and the initial “chase” scene was so, so boring.
But then we move into a deep study into AI and consciousness, and it threw me for a loop. All of a sudden I was super interested and into the story. And then the ending – somehow exactly what I expected and yet completely surprising – how is that even possible?
I don’t know – I don’t even know if I liked it. But I guess I have to give it 4 stars? So I must have, right? God I am confused.
So that’s it. The entirety of Amazon’s Forward Collection. Overall a pretty good collection. I’d recommend it if you’re in the mood for some short, but mind-boggling reading. 🙂