This is a nice mixture of science fiction short stories, varied in both length and subject matter. I have to confess, I’m more of a fantasy reader, so I got a bit bogged down in some of the sciencey bits. However, the author’s trademark smooth writing carried me along.
The first two stories, Digital Soul and Pillar, were both awesome – beautifully crafted, immersive and with that deft little twist at the end which makes a short story so satisfying. The third story, The Last Gasp of the Dragon, was short and sweet – maybe too short to make an impact (or maybe I just didn’t get it – always possible).
The fourth story, Orphaned World, was long and filled with blow-by-blow detail which lost me somewhere along the way. The tension built and built, yet the resolution felt insufficient for all that build-up. I had the feeling there was some profound idea being conveyed which my befuddled brain wasn’t grasping properly. Over my head, I suspect.
But the final story, Too Dumb To Die/The Sea Beyond the Stars, hit the spot beautifully, with a wonderful tale that asked all the difficult questions about what it actually means to be human. Or perhaps, more subtly, about the nature of humanity. Epic stuff.
For me, this collection didn’t quite reach the glorious heights of The Wandering Tale, but for those who like their speculative fiction both thought-provoking and elegantly written, this is highly recommended. Four stars.