Book Review — The Future Chronicles

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12016174_10153528189235170_522376485_oOver the past year, Samuel Peralta has diligently and deliberately put together a powerhouse science fiction anthology series. He’s been able to attract big name authors such as Hugh Howey, Ken Liu, Seanan McGuire, Robert J. Sawyer, Jennifer Foehner Wells, and Matthew Mather among many others. But, what makes the Future Chronicles volumes great is the platform for new and emerging talent from the trenches of indie authors. While the established authors have been the cornerstone for these collections, the indie talent Sam chooses for each book is exciting and raw.

Full Disclosure: I’ve been privileged to be in three FC anthologies so far (Alien, Z & Immortality) and have spots reserved in at least two more scheduled to run in the next six to eight months. Other than reading and loving The Future Chronicles Special Edition anthology, I have no involvement in the collection.

So if the different anthologies released in the past year were all-star teams, then The Future Chronicles is a best of the best. Some of my favorite stories from collections like The Robot Chronicles, The Telepath Chronicles, The Alien Chronicles and The A.I. Chronicles appear, inviting you to rediscover them, to read them again for the first time in the context of this new collection, outside of the confines of their genre-specific collection. For some, it seems to imbue them with new meaning. When reading A.K. Meek’s The Invariable Man (later expanded to a longer book) with a brand new story on one end and stories about telepaths just pages later, it almost can be read with a new and different point of view.

In The Future Chronicles, we get eleven stories previously released in those first four of the Future Chronicles collections. Each of these stories is excellent and represents those anthologies wonderfully. What is an extra treat are five brand new stories from Sam Best, Susan Kaye Quinn, Deirdre Gould, Angela Cavanaugh, and Moira Katson, as well as a Foreword penned by Hugh Howey. Each is a breath of fresh air. With the general theme, you don’t quite know what to expect…will these stories be about robots, telepathy, aliens, or something else entirely. I’m thrilled to say each of these could very well serve as a foundational block for an anthology of their own.

While I don’t want to ruin any discovery a reader will make on their own, Sam Best really rocks the beginning of the entire collection, Quinn again provides her own brand of singularity fiction with her story, Gould presents a mind-bending tale that will leave you shaking your head, Cavanaugh could give you nightmares (or are they…) for her story The Assistant and Katson threatens to leave you with tears after reading her heartbreaking story of defiance in the face of death.

What’s really amazing is how each of these stories works not only in the confines of their own specific genre, but also all alone and then back in the comfort of other Future Chronicles stories that may or may not be in the same vein. Peralta has crafted a juggernaut and readers are reaping the benefits. If you get the chance, read The Future Chronicles and then explore the other titles available in the Kindle Store.

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Book Review – Invariable Man

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in manWhen I was in high school, I adored Isaac Asimov. I devoured nearly everything I could get my hands on that he had written or had his name plastered on from short stories, novels, works he edited, and even fact books. One of those was the short story Nightfall.

To say my mind was blown by Nightfall was an understatement. Asimov took a concept completely foreign to an earthling, and made it terrifying and compelling all at the same time. When he teamed up with Robert Silverberg to expand the story into a full-length novel, it became a book I would read over and over.

Fast-forward to 2014 when The Robot Chronicles was released. Once again, it harkens back to my love of Asimov and all of his amazing robot stories. One of the tales in the anthology was A.K. Meek’s Invariable Man. It was one of my favorites from the collection with headfakes left and right, showcasing Meek’s great storytelling along with a great robot theme.

So you can imagine my delight when I found out Meek had taken his story and expanded it for a longer – and richer – robot experience. Just like with Nightfall, the story becomes a new animal, separated from the confines of a pre-set wordcount, and given the ability to breathe on its own While IM was a great addition to The Robot Chronicles, it makes a wonderful read all on its own as a short novel.

Just like in the short story, our protagonist is Micah, an old man living in the wreckage – literally, and psychologically – of a war between robot and human. He fixes things, and uses the scrap metal all around him to improve his own lonely life. I really don’t want to say too much because the twists come less than a quarter of the way into the story and don’t let up until the final page. Suffice it to say Meek has a plan for Micah and that plan may not always turn out like you might expect.

I really enjoyed reading the expanded version of Invariable Man and look forward to more of Meek’s writing into the future.

Book Review – The A.I. Chronicles

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aiThere’s just something about science fiction that causes the reader to look, not just towards the future, but also to our past and our present. I found myself thinking about a lot while I read the latest Future Chronicles installment – The A.I. Chronicles.

Throughout humanity’s existence on earth, we’ve continuously defined what it means to be a person. Men (especially white men in the Western hemisphere in the past 2,000 years) have long since had the power over everyone else, determining a person’s humanity by their gender, their skin color, their age, even the amount of property they owned.

Along with the growth of science and technology, mankind has evolved to the point where nearly all of those disputes are in our past. The next wave of humanity may deal with a similar issue, but it will be of our own making. What is intelligence? Does intelligence equal humanity? Do those with “artificial” intelligence deserve the same rights as those born naturally?

Those are tough questions for sure, and many of the stories in The A.I. Chronicles tackle those issues head-on. I thoroughly enjoyed each of the thirteen stories put together in this collection and know I will go back in the future and re-read them again and again.

There were more than a few that caught my attention, starting first and foremost with “Vendetta” by Chrystalla Thoma. The story tells about a future war between humanity and the A.I., long since fought and nearly forgotten about. Humanity has moved on, keeping technology in their lives, but not at the center. As a reader, I really enjoyed this story which kept me asking questions about who the protagonists were and their place in this futuristic society.

I also loved Patrice Fitzgerald’s “Piece of Cake.” As someone who is overweight, and struggles with those issues, I see stories in the news about the government taxing additional calories, prohibiting super-size drinks and snacks, and imposing restrictions on meals for kids in school. It is troubling to see the government legislate those things, and Fitzgerald takes that and advances the idea to include a 1984-type society complete with the food police around every turn, thanks to an A.I. who monitors food intake and weight. Fascinating and scary, with the trademark Fitzgerald humor attached.

I could talk about each and every story and some reviews may do so, but I’ll leave it at this — you won’t regret buying this collection.

The short story is a wonderful form, especially in science fiction where so much unmined ground can be found. I am constantly amazed by each and every story I find in the Future Chronicles anthologies and eagerly anticipate each to come.


 

(Reviewer Note: I received an Advance Reviewer Copy in exchange for an honest review. In the interest of full disclosure, my story “Uncle Allen” was previously published in The Alien Chronicles and I am slated to appear in the upcoming anthology The Z Chronicles.)