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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Immortal Ponderings

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Lately, I’ve been thinking about eternity. In a mostly scientific sense at least…well, science fiction sense I suppose. The search for immortality and the quest for eternal life has been at the forefront of human existence for millenia. We want to live longer…we want to push the boundaries of life and death…we want to be a part of the universe for just a moment longer…

11796327_10153423837640170_1900403244562143189_nIn the past few days, I’ve been able to read through the next Future Chronicles anthology, entitled The Immortality Chronicles. Samuel Peralta, the braintrust behind the FC series, has already laid the foundations with Robots, Telepathy, Aliens, A.I., Dragons, Zombies, and Alternate History. I have the privilege of having a story in Immortality and after finishing reading the entire collection, it’s safe to say we’ve done it again with a fantastic group of stories.

As I read through the various stories, I found a few different themes kept popping up. Life. Death. Agony of existence and purity of the grave.

Ultimately though, a few of the stories kept coming back in some small way to one thing. And that one thing kept running through my head long after I put my Kindle down.

Memories.

We all have them. Whether it was the thoughts from this morning when you ate pancakes for breakfast, or the memories of climbing the oak tree in your backyard as an eight-year-old, memories are a constant in our lives. Some are welcome: the rich memories that flood my mind whenever I smell a fresh donut…the times I spent reading books on my bed as a teenager, dying to spend a split second in the worlds I jointly created with the author…the small moments I’ve spent with my wife from our first time holding hands to now.

Some memories are seemingly random. For example, whenever I iron clothes, my mind backtracks to an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Its the one where Picard is basically a babysitter for some of the children on board the Enterprise when the power on the ship fails. He has to be their leader and their comfort, even singing with them in a powerless lift shaft. I have no idea why I think of that when I iron clothes, but that’s where my mind goes. Always. Every morning when I comb my hair, I think of a scene from the zombie movie Dawn of the Dead. The one from 2003 or 2004. I don’t even like the scene so much, but whenever I’m applying hair spray in the morning, my mind drifts back to that stupid movie. Memories are silly and capricious. At times they seem to control us more than we control them.

Some memories…maybe are more difficult: the pain and anguish we went through as we struggled to get our son home from Africa over the past few years…the torture of seeing siblings struggle with infertility and adoption setbacks of their own…rejections and losses throughout my life.

Ultimately though, a running theme that seemed to reverberate with me was memories. When a person ends up immortal (or close to it), we as the author tends to assume the human brain would run out of space to hold the memories. That there is a finite space for those and an infinite life is too much for that grey matter to hold on to. How do we solve that problem? Maybe the protagonist simply discards chosen memories here and there, perhaps the memory wipe is more…invasive. Perhaps the brain does its own purging and keeps the memories that it deems more important and relevant to life…

It’s really fascinating how the authors handle these situations. I don’t want to give anything away, but for some, the memory issue is a key factor in the plot of the story and yet in other stories, the memories are a side mention.

If I was facing eternal life, I would think that my memories would soon be my preferred currency. What is life if we cannot remember the times we surprised someone with a birthday party or a puppy, or even a nice pizza? What would be the purpose of elongated life if we couldn’t remember how we got there? If the lessons we learned in hundreds of years of life were suddenly stripped away and gone, I would mourn the loss of those memories. I’m not sure that eternal life is worth it if I can’t take a look back on where I came from along the way. It’s really hard to say what we would actually choose, however, when we’ve never had this option before.

There is so much more to The Immortality Chronicles from David Bruns’ courtroom drama, to Harlow Fallon’s deep space prison ship, and John Gregory Hancock’s cigar shop on an alien port. I loved reading all the stories and I think you will too. If you haven’t preordered The Immortality Chronicles yet, get on it. Just $2.99 during preorder and then it will go up to $5.99 after the launch, so you want to buy it now.