CBR14Bingo: Heart – because the theme of the anthology is relationships in SF, so they all involve feelings from the heart
I’ll be honest, that cover completely caught my eye, and when I saw this anthology had stories from Naomi Kritzer, Seanan McGuire and JANE YOLEN!!!! I couldn’t resist. The overarching theme is that of relationships in science fiction – romantic, familial, or platonic – with all the stories written by female or nonbinary authors. It’s divided into three unequal sections. The first section “Hearts” has the most stories (unsurprising given the theme) and revolves around love, mostly of the romantic type. “Hands”, the next section, deals more with actions, whether that’s building communities or some seriously dysfunctional family dynamics. “Minds”, the final section, deals more with the mental rather than the physical aspects of relationships.
Because it’s generally hard to rate such a broad group of stories, here’s each one in the order they appear, along with some quick notes.
“Poem: They: A Grammar Lesson” by Jane Yolen – ★★★★★. Deceptively simple but absolutely terrific, a perfect start to this collection.
“The sad conclusion that must be drawn is that some people cannot handle a little intimacy.”
“Retrospect” by Seanan McGuire – ★★★★★. Hi, I’m freaked out and fascinated and kinda jealous actually? Seanan McGuire has a way with medical/scientific short stories and novellas that is absolutely unrivaled. They’re twisty in the most delicious way.
“Lockpick, Locked Heart” by AnaMaria Curtis – ★★★★☆. It’s abandonware, but for emotions! An interesting concept and a mostly successful execution. The quip about the organizational skills of nuns had me laughing!
“Touch Has a Memory” by Lisa Morton – ★★★★☆. This one reminded me of a noir mystery, though it involves a high-powered lawyer and a rich robot instead of the usual hard boiled detective and femme fatale. It’s a fascinating take on rights and gender and attraction.
“Ping-Pong Dysphoria” by Madeline Pine – ★★★☆☆. The story is fine, but compared to the previous ones? It fell short, both in length and in execution. It wasn’t quite meaty enough for me.
“In Our Masks, the Shadows” by Sam Fleming – ★★★☆☆. A exploration of online life versus “real” life and how it relates to dating. The central theme – about the shallowness of how we often represent ourselves to the outside world – felt, well, shallow.
“Ships of Theseus” by Felicity Drake – ★★★★☆. This story explores a woman’s choice to voluntarily augment herself with a prosthesis and her interactions with a friend who has prosthetic legs due to an accident. They’re able to neurally link together and “feel” the other’s limbs. This story was absolutely fascinating, between the ethics of voluntary augmentation and the ability to literally walk in another person’s shoes (or limbs, whatever).
“With All Souls Still Aboard” by Premee Mohamed – ★★★★★. This is perhaps the most low-tech of the stories, dealing with the daily life of a mother and young son after her husband is killed while saving the planet from an asteroid. It’s full of grief and a bit of hope, and the emotions are just so present and engrossing. Definitely a writer I’ll be following!
“You need someone to take care of you.”
“And I need to take care of someone,” I said softly.
“More than Nine” by Beth Cato – ★★★★★. It’s cute and a bit silly, but I also cried like an idiot. I was absolutely delighted to see that this author has written several other cat stories, and she’s on my TBR for sure now.
“Poem: There Is a Hand” by Jane Yolen – ★★★★☆. Yep, Jane Yolen’s still Jane Yolen.
“I learned that you can’t understand the shape of the particle without understanding the particles near it,” I said.
“The Shape of the Particle” by Naomi Kritzer – ★★★★☆. I’m trash for anything found family, so of course I gobbled this up. It’s a very near sci-fi sort of story, but it fits well enough into this anthology given its themes. It’s a lovely rejection of one’s worth being only what you produce; about how building a community is just as important. (As a sidenote, Naomi Kritzer is one of my favorite short story writers, with “Little Free Library” being my favorite).
“No Want to Spend” by Sophie Giroir – ★★★☆☆. An asexual person attempts to get passage off an incredibly sexually-oriented world. It was a bit too in-your-face about it and the resolution seemed lackluster.
“Little Deaths and Missed Connections” by Maria Dong – ★★★☆☆. A woman in a space prison starts finding mysterious notes left behind by a secret admirer…. if only she can figure out who that is. Another story that’s just fine and didn’t really catch my attention.
“Sincerely Yours” by Lyda Morehouse – ★★★★☆. Another story of intercepted communications, but this time one that really caught (hah, pun intended) my attention. The heroine has severe social anxiety, so much so that being the sole crew member on a space station is a dream job for her. One of the few social outlets she can tolerate is discussing her favorite anime shows via text. I liked that this story didn’t go the “time-honored” route of showing some whiz-bang techno way she could be “cured,” but rather focused on how important her boundaries were. Powerful stuff.
“Photosynthesis, Growth” by Devin Miller – ★★★☆☆. This story is about navigating a long distance relationship, where the scifi theme comes into play because one person in the relationship goes off to school somewhere dark and cold and the other can’t follow because she needs photosynthesis to survive. Interesting idea, but the execution didn’t work for me.
“No Pain but That of Memory” by Aimee Ogden – ★★★☆☆. It pained me to not like this one because I’ve liked the author’s previous work, but I found this story, about the machinations between two siblings on a world taken over by a mind-controlling dictator, overly gory and too hard to get in to.
“Go Where the Heart Takes You” by Anita Ensal – ★★★★☆. Super cute and heartwarming and a perfect ending to the “hands” section, in this case involving the remaining two elderly members of a plural marriage who decide to do the scifi equivalent of renting an RV and seeing the universe. What really sold me on this one was the way the two women interact with each other, how they anticipate the other’s actions and responses, just like an old married couple.
“The receptacle for your histories,
mysteries, stories, poems.”
“Poem: Mars Conquest” by Jane Yolen – ★★★★☆. Yet again perfectly suited for the section.
“The Star-Crossed Horoscope for Interstellar Travelers” by Fran Wilde – ★★★★☆. Decidedly hilarious galactic horoscopes. “Be a little less extra, Leo” indeed.
“Canvas of Sins” by Mercedes M. Yardley – ★★★☆☆. I have no idea where this story was going, and no idea if it did what it wanted to, but I didn’t like it.
“If My Body Is a Temple, Raze It to the Ground” by Lauren Ring – ★★★★☆. The idea of being able to upload your consciousness isn’t a new one, and neither is the way that could be exploited, but I liked the thoughtful way it was handled here and the gentle romance.
“PerfectMate™” by Xander Odell – ★★★★☆. More hilarity, this time when attempts to find someone’s perfect match keep going badly wrong. This one also involves an asexual character, but I think it does it more skillfully while still resonating just as well.
“Etruscan Afterlife” by Rosemary Claire Smith – ★★★★☆. Adorably sweet. Another story exploring the uploading of consciousnesses, but this time framed around a couple, one of whom is afraid they’ll stop loving each other after being uploaded. An absolutely fascinating take.
“Our Savage Heart Calls to Itself (Across the Endless Tides)” by Justina Robson – ★★★☆☆. This was… fine. It took me a while to get my head around the characters, but I enjoyed the heist portion.
There were some definite standouts for me and some misses, but overall, I think this anthology did exactly what it set out to do. While I didn’t enjoy all of the stories, there were very few that I got actively bored reading, so I’ll give this four stars.
I received an advance review copy of this book from Book Sirens. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.