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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Futureshocks, edited by Lou Anders

Futureshocks, edited by Lou Anders. New York: Roc, 2006. ISBN: 0-451-46065-0

According to the happily brief editor's introduction, this is a collection of “science-fiction stories that envision the dangers lying in wait for us on the road ahead, or lurking just around the corner of history. Each of the writers has been asked to provide an examination of new fears arising out of sociological, biological, or technological change.”

Some of the authors whose names I recognized include Mike Resnick and Harry Turtledove (who actually collaborate on their story), Alan Dean Foster, Paul Di Filippo, Robert Sawyer and Robert Charles Wilson. I probably ought to recognize more of them, but I don't. There are several whose other work I'd like to seek out and read, after these brief exposures, but alas, there are SO many books, and SO little time.

All of the stories are entertaining, but I did have a few favorites among them. “Man You Gotta Go,” by Adam Roberts involves the first successful AI (artificial intelligence) which also solves the problem of FTL (Faster Than Light) travel. Unfortunately, only machines can make use of the solution, so humans begin off-loading their consciousness into the machines, gradually depopulating earth. This eventually causes the death of the original AI, when she realizes what she's done, since she was constructed with built in fail-safes against harming humanity.

The Teosinte War” by Paul Melko features a kind of time machine that can look at alternate universes. It turns out that “If you go back in time and make a change, you build a whole new universe, a malleable one, flexible from the point where you make your first change.” Our protagonist is a grad student working with a professor who wants to prove that native American civilizations, Aztecs, Incas, etc. could have developed technologically ahead of Europe or Asia. They figure out a way to introduce corn fully developed, not primitive maize, then horses onto the American continent, millennia earlier than in our version of history, and monitor the effects. But they have to keep trying over and over, since things never seem to turn out quite the way they want.

Finally, “Flashes,” by Robert J. Sawyer, imagines what would happen if an alien civilization began sending us their advanced knowledge, covering topics such as physics, math, economics, even life after death (or the lack of), via radio signals. Basically broadcasting the Encyclopedia Galactica to Earth. What would happen to our economics? Our sciences? Our civilization? Could we handle the knowledge? Probably not.

This book will be enjoyed by most science fiction fans. Definitely recommended.

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