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Federations

by Rob Friesel

FederationsIn many ways, I’ve started to come to believe that you can’t go wrong with a John Joseph Adams’ collection. Wastelands was incredible, The Living Dead was great, and Federations…? Also very very good.

The “dust jacket description” of this anthology pretty much sums it up… It collects a few different modern takes on the classic science fiction trope: What does it take; what does it mean for a civilization to be interstellar and/or pan-galactic?

My take of Federations, it gets a composite rating of 3.9130 (individual stories below)

  • “Mazer in Prison” (Orson Scott Card): ★★★
    • About what you’d expect from Card. So it doesn’t disappoint but it doesn’t exactly thrill, either.
  • “Carthago Delenda Est” (Genevieve Valentine): ★★★★
  • “Life Suspension” (L. E. Modesitt, Jr.): ★★½
  • “Terra-Exulta” (S.L. Gilbow): ★★★
    • Reminds me a bit of that Stephen King piece that opens Wastelands. The letter-writing format is a tough one to write in and I appreciate the effort here. And I don’t dislike this piece but it seems… too short? or just that its hand is tipped too early and that kind of blows the ending a bit?
  • “Aftermaths” (Lois McMaster Bujold): ★★★★
  • “Someone is Stealing the Great Throne Rooms of the Galaxy” (Harry Turtledove): ★★
    • Not terribly intriguing, and a little puerile/juvenile. To me… I can see why it was included (for the variety and for the perspective it brings) but it just doesn’t do it. Not for me.
  • “Prisons” (Kevin J. Anderson & Doug Beason): ★★½
    • So much potential, and almost good; but why did I wind up feeling like it needed to be more subversive? (E.g., so many heteronormative relationships!—if the prison revolt leader had been lovers with another man, well now maybe that might have been a little more intriguing.)
  • “Different Day” (K. Tempest Bradford): ★★★★★
  • “Twilight of the Gods” (John C. Wright): ★★★★
    • The Tolkien-esque language can be a little off-putting at first but it really starts to make sense after you get about a third of the way in.
  • “Warship” (George R. R. Martin and George Guthridge): ★★★★★
    • I can’t imagine why it took so long for Martin to shop this piece—unless Guthridge really brought that much to it. The execution is very spot-on.
  • “Swanwatch” (Yoon Ha Lee): ★★★★
    • I want to like this more. It’s beautiful but a bit oblique—and that’s fine but somehow it doesn’t jump to where it needs to be.
  • “Spirey and the Queen” (Alastair Reynolds): ★★★★★
    • Awesome. Did you like Watts’ [book:Blindsight|2542808]? Did you like Sterling’s “Swarm”? A little bit like that. (Only robots.)
  • “Pardon Our Conquest” (Alan Dean Foster): ★★★½
  • “Symbiont” (Robert Silverberg): ★★★★½
    • Highly disurbing; more so than I thought it would be. (Just read this one; skip the introduction.)
  • “The Ship Who Returned” (Anne McCaffrey): ★★★★
  • “My She” (Mary Rosenblum): ★★★★½
    • Brilliant. Nicely subversive and almost perfect.
  • “The Shoulders of Giants” (Robert J. Sawyer): ★★½
  • “The Culture Archivist” (Jeremiah Tolbert): ★★★★★
    • This one is funny in the way that “Someone is Stealing…” (vida supra) could/should have been.
  • “The Other Side of Jordan” (Allen Steele): ★★★★½
    • Serves a little bit as a reminder that one of the things you’re going for (when you’re going for sci-fi) is the “deep milieu”. This has got it. And I love it for it.
  • “Like They Always Been Free” (Georgina Li): ★★★★
    • Very dense; worthwhile.
  • “Eskhara” (Trent Hergenrader): ★★★★★
    • The allegorical bits are obvious but rather than detract, they make it all very worth while.
  • “The One with the Interstellar Group Consciousnesses” (James Alan Gardner): ★★★★
    • Cute, and a bit novel, but kind of like an artisan soda: not really bad for you but not really necessary but damn tasty but kind of a cloying aftertaste?
  • “Golubash, or Wine-War-Blood-Elegy” (Catherynne M. Valente): ★★★★½
    • A little on the oblique side but the framing for the story is absolutely killer.

About Rob Friesel

Software engineer by day, science fiction writer by night. Author of The PhantomJS Cookbook and a short story in Please Do Not Remove. View all posts by Rob Friesel →

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