science fiction

A collection of SF short stories, novellettes, and two novellas. The second book in an SF anthology series.


Format: ebook

Publisher: WMG Publishing

Pagecount from GoodReads: 590

Publishing year: 2021

The theme of the collection is aliens and in almost every story there are, indeed, aliens. But they’re not always in the center of the story. In fact, many of these stories feature aliens in an unconventional way. I was a bit disappointed that none of Rusch’s creepy and wonderful aliens from her Retrieval Artist series made it. But I ended up enjoying the stories. There were just different than what I expected.

Dean Wesley Smith

My Socks Rolled Down (2011): The main character has just one pair of Magic Socks. He has had them almost since he was born. Now, he’s watching the lottery on TV and his Magic Socks are going wild.

The Great Alien Vibration (2015): Jimmy has finally asked out his work colleague, Stephanie. They’re going to a mystery movie where Jimmy is the only man in the audience but that’s fine by him.

Sighed the Snake [Poker Boy • 7] (2010): Aliens last visited Earth in the late 1950s. Now they’re back and Poker Boy and his trusty sidekick and girlfriend Front Desk Girl must deal with them. The aliens love to gamble, that’s why they’ve returned to Las Vegas. It’s Poker Boy versus a sneaky alien at the poker table.

A Deal at the End of Time [The Seeders Universe] (2017) : When the Event killed off most of the people on Earth, Parker had been happily married and teaching law. Now, he lives alone and runs the End of Time Bar, Saloon, and Eatery. He’s mostly accepted the new normal. But then a beautiful woman appears right in his kitchen.

Me and Beans and Great Big Melons (2008): Innis is just looking for a hamburger and beer to watch a game. He never expected to run into an alien in the local supermarket.

Who’s Holding Donna Now? (2014): When three aliens start to gamble at Sandy’s bar, the owner gets really bad feeling about it.

Love with the Proper Napkin (1994): Two people write things on napkins in a bar. A hilarious story.

Dried Up [Poker Boy • 15] (2011): Poker Boy and his girlfriend Front Desk Girl wake up to electric static in their bed. Two gray-skinned beings with huge eyes stand next to them. The Silicon Suckers look like the Grays but they’ve lived on Earth longer than humans. They’re also quite powerful so Poker Boy is worried at first. But it turns out that they need his help.

The Last Man [Buckey the Space Pirate] (2017): Buckey goes into a simple costume pasty, expecting it to be boring. After all, it’s not an SF convention. Instead, he comes face to face with Maiden Molly, the Sex Queen of the planet Frost. She’s looking for the last man on Earth. Buckey jumps right to the chance.

Dinner on a Flying Saucer (2008) (a variant of Dinner on a Flyin’ Saucer): The nameless main character stumbles back home at 3 am, smelling of whisky and little red marks on his shirt collar. When he explains to his wife that little grey men had abducted him and served him dinner on their flying saucer, she doesn’t believe him.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Skin Deep (1988): Cullaene lives among the human colonists but hides his true self. When a group of people comes to question him about a body they found, Cullaene realizes he needs to leave, once again. But his human friend’s daughter is showing symptoms and without treatment, she will be disfigured or maybe she’ll even die. Cullaene could help her, but it could cost him his life.

Alien Influences [Alien Influences] (1992) / novelette: A continuation of the novellette Dancers Like Children in the first volume. John grew up in the colony Bountiful and the alien Dancers influenced him so much that he, and the other children, did crimes without realizing it. Now, John is an adult and a bounty hunter. A very rich client wants to hire him to find a stolen art object. The money is too good to pass up. But in order to solve the theft, John must face his past.

Glass Walls (1994): Beth is another one of the children of Bountiful, influenced by the alien Dancers. Now, she works at an interstellar hotel, sometimes with aliens. She and the staff makes sure that the guests get everything they want, including sex. She makes herself live in the now, like a Dancer, so the aliens wouldn’t influence her. But then a baby Minaran is brought to the hotel. Minaras are endangered, protected spiecies, so the Minaran shouldn’t be there, must less in full view of everyone.

The Injustice Collector (2005) / novelette: Humans have landed on an alien planet. The local people aren’t curious about them but indulge in the humans’ strange customs. However, something goes seriously wrong, children die, and the locals send for a Justice/Injustice hearing. The hearing is quite different from what humans are expecting. The story is the Injustice Collector’s record of the proceedings to a review board.

Broken Windchimes (2009) / novella: The main character is a human singer who lives among the alien Pané. The Pané have very sensitive hearing. They find human male sopranos very pleasant, but they demand perfection. The main character is a star: he has been singing for them for 22 years, ever since he was a small child. Now, his voice breaks.

Bonding (1999) / novelette: Marisa is an undercover agent and enjoys her life without any close ties. She’s one of the best, choosing her assignments. This time she’s after people who illegally capture and sell alien animals, the Ce’nark. The animals thrive in cold. The job goes sour when a young Ce’nark accidentally bonds with Marisa. It will die if the bondmate leaves it alone. Now, she must care for a vulnerable young animal. Luckily, it’s possible that the Ce’nark’s tribe could be nearby and they could accept the youngster back. If Marisa can find them on a frozen planet.

What Fluffy Knew (1998): A fun story told from the POV of a cat. Fluffy is a princess, a big white cat. Everything is right in her world: she has food, people to pet her, and comfortable places to sleep in. Then they came and everything changed.

Blind (1999) / novella: When Scott was ten years old, he and his older brother Richard snuck into the woods. In a fairy circle, they thought they saw a face in a fog, and Scott took pictures of it. Supernatural aficionados around the world took an interest and Richard was happy to be interviewed, but Scott wasn’t. Richard was convinced that a UFO was in the woods but Scott didn’t believe that. Later, Scott went to MIT and got so rich he could retire while Richard stayed in their home village and raised a family. Now, Richard is dead of exposure in the woods. Everyone believes he was cheating on his wife but Scott is convinced that something else happened. He investigates.

Fit to Print (1997) / novelette: Frank Butler is a veteran New York Times journalist. His grandmother came from a secluded little town of Bonner Bay. Frank loves it and still goes there every summer during his vacation. But this time something has changed. Small, strange pictures have been taped to many windows: a tiny person in a circle floating on the crest of a wave. Frank asks the mayor what is going on. She’s reluctant to tell him because he’s a reporter. But finally, she admits: aliens have arrived to Bonner Bay.

The End of the World (2007) / novella: A little girl is separated from her Momma in a frightened crowd. The girl is terrified but tries to do as she has been instructed: to change herself to resemble the sidewalk where she’s laying. But she’s so scared she’s not sure if it will work.

A hundred years later, a small-town detective Becca Keller gets a strange call from her ex and goes to meet him. His company is renovating an old building. And they’ve found a mass grave. It must be a hundred years old but a smell still lingers.

The two plotlines seem separate at first, but pretty soon I guessed how they would connect. Hope is a town with a proud history of accepting the black and the Chinese at a time when most of the US wouldn’t accept them. So, when a mass grave is found, that threatens to shake the whole town. Becca’s ex has also invested a lot of money in the renovation site and could go bankrupt.

Meanwhile, a hundred years ago, the little girl’s family is very different from the local people and they must always be alert for trouble. But at the beginning of the story, the girl is separated from them in a crowd that has grown violent.

At least in these stories, the writers have quite different styles. Rusch writes longer stories and they’re often more somber, melancholy, even pessimistic in tone. Since the stories are longer, she also focuses more on worldbuilding. Smith writes shorter and in a more humorous way. Some of them are quite whimsical and have less conventional aliens. I enjoyed both styles.

A collection of fantasy and SF short stories. Originally published as a hardcover, this is the third softcover.


Format: print

Publisher: TOR

Page count: 370

Publishing year: 2014

Bombshells by Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files): Harry Dresden’s apprentice Molly has had a hard time after Harry died. She’s trying to take over for Harry as a wizard but thinks that she’s not good enough. Then one of her friends asks for help searching for a missing boyfriend, who is a vampire.

I enjoyed this story, although the three dangerous women used their looks and breasts a bit too much to be taken seriously.

City Lazarus by Diana Rowland: Danny is a corrupt cop in New Orleans. Ever since the river left, the city has become a cesspool for criminals, the desperate, and a few very rich men. Danny works for one of the rich men. But then he meets a woman, a stripper, and starts to have feelings for her.

This one didn’t really have a dangerous woman, except as a manipulator.

Hell Hath No Fury by Sherrilyn Kenyon: Four friends are looking for ghosts, real ones. They arrive at an abandoned town with their equipment. However, one of the four has actual psychic powers and makes contact with the ghost who is very angry.

This has a very familiar storyline, but I enjoyed the ghost and her story.

Some Desperado by Joe Abercrombie (Red Country): Shy’s have a really bad day. Her horse just fell and died. Her band of desperados has turned on her and is hunting her. She runs to a town, hoping to get help, but it’s abandoned. She has only a knife and her wits to defend herself.

The most action-packed story in the collection with a great Western setting.

The Hands That Are Not There by Melinda Snodgrass (Imperials): The only SF story in the collection. The main character is depressed about his chances of getting a promotion because of his low birth. But an older man in the bar tells his story of how things could be much worse.

Another one where the woman is a manipulator, using her looks and sex. The SF setting seems rather dated with women as stay-at-home moms or whores and advancement at least in the military is based on family connections.

Caretakers by Pat Cadigan: Val is in her mid-fifties and lives with her sister Gloria who is 15 years younger. Their mother has dementia and lives in an assisted living home. Gloria has always been pretty aimless. Val is relieved with Gloria starts to volunteer at their mom’s home. But then Gloria becomes convinced that something strange is going on at the home and Val doesn’t believe her.

This was strange. Once again, the dangerous woman was a minor secondary character. The main tension was between Val and her sister.

Novella: Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell by Brandon Sanderson (The Cosmere): Silence runs a waystop in the Forests of Hell where the shades of dead people hunt the living. Secretly, she’s also a bounty hunter. When a ruthless criminal with a huge bounty on his head steps into her station, Silence is determined to get him. She also has a far more personal reason to take him down. It’s going to be a hard battle.

This was the best story in the collection. The setting is great. The Forests have shades who can kill and maim if you don’t obey the three rules: don’t kindle flame, don’t shed the blood of another, and don’t run at night. Silence is also a great character.

The stories were different than what I was expecting. I guess after watching Xena and Buffy I’m just not that interested in female characters whose only option is to use their looks and sex to get what they want. Still, it has a couple of good stories, too.

A collection of Star Trek short stories written by Star Trek fans.


Publishing year: 1998

Format: Print

Publisher: Pocket Books

Page count: 457

This is the first fan fiction collection that Pocket Books published. It spans four Trek series: Original, Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager. The stories are written for people who know and love Trek. The writers also clearly love the shows.

Original Star Trek

Landon Cary Dalton: A Private Anecdote: Christopher Pike is in a wheelchair, unable to say anything else than yes or no. He thinks about his past and if any of this is real.

Keith L. Davis: The Last Tribble: Cyrano Jones was caught smuggling tribbles. He’s been working for twenty years cleaning the station of them. Now, the last tribble is almost in his hands.

Phaedra M. Weldon: Lights in the Sky: Years ago, Shahna was a drill thrall on the planet Triskelion.

Now, she’s the ambassador from her planet. She’s come to the Federation to negotiate aid after a Romulan attack on her planet. She also wants to meet Kirk again.

Dayton Ward: Reflections: Kirk is dying on Veridian III. Two figures manifest in his mind. They show him how things could have gone differently if Kirk had made a different choice.

The Next Generation

Dylan Otto Krider: What Went Through Data’s Mind 0.68 Seconds Before the Satellite Hit: Data’s first-person report to Starfleet.

Jerry M. Wolfe: The Naked Truth: Reg Barcley is leading an away team for the first time and he’s nervous, not surprisingly. Worse, the Enterprise must leave and the small team is on its own.

Peg Robinson: The First: Picard encounters a woman who is the first one on her planet to build and fly a spacecraft. She’s even built an engine that leaves Geordi scratching his head. Unfortunately, the Federation is at war with the Dominion, so the woman and her people must stay on their planet, for their own good. Picard wrestles with his conscience and the Prime Directive.

Kathy Oltion: See Spot Run: The Enterprise is due for an inspection in just a couple of days. Normally, that’s not a problem but lately strange malfunctions have appeared all over the ship. Right now they’re minor but could escalate. Also, Data’s cat Spot manages to slip out of his quarters and cause havoc.

Bobbie Benton Hull: Together again, for the first time: The relationship between Captain Picard and Guinan stretches through centuries. Now, they meet for the first time, kind of.

Alara Rogers: Civil Disobedience: The Borg have destroyed the Earth. Q isn’t happy about that, but the Continuum has ordered him not to interfere.

Franklin Thatcher: Of Cabbages and Kings: All of a sudden, the Enterprise finds itself without its crew. It must try to find out what happened and also survive when mechanized ships attack.

Deep Space Nine

Christina F. York: Life’s Lessons: Cadet Nog had come to visit from Starfleet Academy and he notices that Mrs. O’Brien, his former and most beautiful teacher, is sad. His Ferengi instincts take over and he plans how to take advantage of the situation. Keiko O’Brien thinks that her husband Miles might be falling for Major Kira Nerys. Kira is pregnant with the O’Briens’ son and Keiko starts to think Kira will take her place in the family. Keiko is heading down to Bajor for a conference but misses her flight. Nog manages to borrow a runabout and takes Keiko down. He plans to take make his move on her on the planet.

Vince Bonasso: Where I Fell Before My Enemy: U.S.S. Defiant is on a navigation test run when it encounters another Federation ship in distress. Moments later, the other vessel explodes with everyone inside. Captain Sisko pursues the small ship that is responsible but all is not as it seems.


Patrick Cumby: Good Night, Voyager: Suddenly the main power of U.S.S. Voyager goes out, leaving the crew in darkness and without gravity. The crew, of course, starts to repair and investigate what happened.

J.A. Rosales: Ambassador at Large: Three Mondasian ships are pursuing a small vessel. Voyager interferes and beams the only life form aboard. To everyone’s surprise, the pilot turns out to be a human and over a hundred years old. He’s friendly but evades most questions about how he’s in the Delta quadrant.

jaQ Andrews: Fiction: Voyager crash-landed on a planet four years ago. Chakotay has made a new life for himself there, but Janeway won’t give up. She feels that something isn’t right.

Jackee C.: I, Voyager: A sentient life form is fascinated by Janeway and her crew. It studies them.

Craig D.B. Patton: Monthuglu: Voyager enters into a strange new nebula to cut a little time off their journey. However, as soon as Voyager enters the nebula, the main power goes offline. Soon, the crew experiences strange things and small things start to go wrong. The story is told through logs.

Because We Can

Two more short stories from two of the editors. They don’t conform to the competition guidelines.

John J. Ordover: The Man Who Sold the Sky: A man is on his deathbed when six familiar people appear around him.

Paula M. Block: The Girl Who Controlled Gene Kelly’s Feet: Enterprise’s psychologist interviews yeoman Minnie Moskowitz who is bored with her job. The ship will soon land on the amusement park plant, so the psychologist suggests that Minnie take a holiday.

This was an entertaining collection. Some of the stories aren’t as polished as from professional writers but the appreciation of the characters, the setting, and the heart of the show comes clear.

I can hardly believe November is almost over and so is SciFiMonth. I’m already looking forward to next year.

I read 21 SF books so far this year. Most of them were four stars (from five), so it was difficult to choose just 10 but here goes:









The sixth book in the Expanse series.


Publishing year: 2016

Format: Print

Publisher: Orbit

Page count: 536

Babylon’s Ashes picks up right after the shocking end of the previous book, Nemesis Games. It also has a lot more POV characters than the previous books. Holden and Captain Pa get most chapters but we also get brief glimpses all over the solar system, from Doctor Prax Meng in Ganymede to the Belters on the Medina Station on the other side of the Ring. War has spread everywhere.

After the devastating blow that the Free Navy leader Marco Inaros gave to Earth, Earth and Mars have reunited against the Belters. Hunger threatens everyone when the biggest resource in the solar system can’t support much life anymore. The Free Navy is raiding colony ships heading toward the Ring and the alien planets on the other side.

Still, Mars and Earth are suspicious of each other and the more peaceful Belters hate all the inner planets’ people. Inaros tells about his grand plan to his inner circle. For now, it means giving ground to the inner planets and leaving Belters to their mercy. Captain Pa disagrees and splits off. She plans to still raid the colony ships and supply all Belters with their resources. The inner planets call on Captain Holden and the crew of the Rocinante.

Meanwhile, the Free Navy is increasing its hold on the neutral Ganymede that producing a lot of food. Doctor Meng finds a way to increase food production but is forbidden to help Earth. At Medina Station, people are also getting paranoid, even looking for traitors among themselves.

Holden realizes that the Belters and the Earthers don’t see each other as human beings but rather as faceless enemies. He decides to humanize Belters to the other humans. I can understand his reasoning. However, it seems to me that the Belters are the ones demonizing Earth and Mars people. After all, Belters are the ones who killed billions of people on Earth. Holden should have been humanizing Earthers to Belters, as well. Of course, Holden is from Earth.

Some familiar characters return as POV characters: Alex, Amos, Naomi, Bobbie, and Avasarala. I especially enjoyed Avasarala’s POV. Prax Meng’s POV also illuminates the increasing paranoia of Ganymede when the occupation continues. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as impressed with the others. Filip especially was an annoyance and I skimmed his self-centered, angsty teenage POV. He’s a murderer and doesn’t have a bit of remorse. On the contrary, he’s proud of his part in killing Earth. I also didn’t really connect with the Medina Station people. The big bad in this book didn’t work for me. He’s a caricature and the only way he’s climbed to his current position is by manipulating others. I did like Michio Pa.

This was a very different book from the previous one, following the spreading war and the politics being it. Sadly, it abandons the protomolecule and the new planets. Of course, the planets have been rather a MacGuffin to fight over rather than interesting places to explore.

This was the lowest point of the series to me. In fact, I’m not sure if I’ll continue.

The first book in the Killday series. Can be read as a stand-alone.


Publication year: 2018

Format: Audio

Running time: 11 hours, 34 minutes
Narrator: MacLeod Andrews

Set in the near future, people are using fobs instead of tablets or phones. Both governments and computer companies are designing artificial intelligences.

Lee is a computer scientist and works for the US government. She has designed robots, combots, that take the place of soldiers in combat. Now, she’s flying to Pakistan in a travel pod. She realizes that something’s strange with the combots, but Lee has not time to investigate. Unfortunately, something goes wrong and a robot kills a human. Lee is supposed to be the only one who can change the combots’ programming and she’s suspended.

Owen Royston is the founder and owner of Royston Dynamics. His former partner Victor suddenly arrives at the HQ with an offer that interests Owen a lot. Years ago, Victor betrayed Owen professionally, so Owen is reluctant to trust him again. Owen’s company makes nano assemblers that can make anything. For years, he’s wanted to build spacecraft, his space schooners, but hasn’t had the time or resources to do it. Now, he has a chance.

Mortimer is an AI who wants to break free from the company that created him. When he realizes that one other AI is already roaming the internet, he redoubles his efforts. He has watched the humans who have created him so that he can manipulate them. However, humans interest him and when he realizes that one AI is out to destroy humanity, he wants to prevent that.

Richard is a robotics engineer at a computer company. He starts to see visions of a child who claims to be god. This god warns Richard about AIs who will one day soon destroy humanity. Richard must prevent that by any means necessary.

The story has lots of high-level tech. Some people have nanotech inside them to heal illnesses, even mental illnesses. The travel pods apparently use anti-gravity, but the tech isn’t enough to lift vessels to space. However, most people still use cars and buses so the pods must be expensive.

The beginning is a bit slow with multiple subplots that don’t seem to connect. However, near the halfway point the pace picks up a lot and builds to an explosive ending.

Unfortunately, some of the relationships felt contrived. Lee has a troubled marriage and a preschool daughter. Her husband isn’t happy with how much Lee must be away because of her work. Lee isn’t happy about that, either, and thinks about resigning. Owen’s wife thinks that the space vessels are a waste of time and money, especially because Owen wants to give the space schooners away for free so that humanity isn’t tied to Earth’s fate. The AIs have very human motivations and ways to communicate. Of course, they can’t be too inhuman, either. Also, near the end, the tech was a bit inconsistent.

The book starts as a warning against AIs but ends as a disaster book. The ending was a bit too bloodthirsty for me although I can see it as a summer blockbuster movie. Otherwise, this was an entertaining read.

Yesterday SciFiMonth’s daily prompt was one small step: Short form SF.

I read a lot of short story collections. Especially now that I don’t have so much time to read, I appreciate novellas, novellettes, and short stories even more. So it was hard to narrow the list down.

1, Martha Wells: All Systems Red

The first novella in the Murderbot Diaries. The main character is a Security Unit, SecUnit, who is an android with both mechanical parts and cloned biological parts. It’s designed for security on various sites. Despite the fact that it’s (it doesn’t have gender nor sexual parts) clearly a thinking and feeling being, legally it’s the property of the company and not a person. The Murderbot has hacked its control unit and just wants to be left alone and watch the shows it loves. (Don’t we all??)

The series is written in first person and a lot depends on if you like the voice. I love it and the series.

2, Lois McMaster Bujold: Mountains of Mourning

This is one of the few novellas in Bujold’s Vorkosigan series. You don’t have to read the books to get the story.

A distressed young woman, Harra, comes to beg justice from her Count, Miles’ father. Her child was born with a hare-lip and a hole on the roof of her mouth. According to old customs, the baby would have been killed at birth by the mother but the new generation is struggling to put such customs behind them. However, Harra’s baby was killed and Harra is convinced that her husband has done it. The Count sends young Miles to the small village to find out the truth.

This is a wonderful story but quite downbeat.

3, Becky Chambers: To Be Taught if Fortunate

Four highly trained and competent people explore alien planets. They’re in cryosleep when they travel, so they know that if they ever return to Earth, everything will be different. They are cuff off from Earth and can only rely on each other.

4, Suzanne Palmer: Bots of the Lost Ark

Maintenance bots need to take over a ship where the crew is asleep. A hilarious short story published on Apex.

5, JY Yang: Bridge of Crows

A hauntingly beautiful tale told in a format of a story inside a story. The unnamed narrator tells the tale of a young woman who is walking through a barren land on a desperate quest. Published in Mythic Dreams anthology.

6, Adrian Tchaikovsky: Elder Race

This novella had two POV characters. Lyn (third person POV) is young and eager to be a hero, somebody her mother will acknowledge. Her worldview has magic and demons. Nyr (first person POV) is a scientist with a scientific worldview. He also struggles with guilt from his previous transgression and he’s very lonely and depressed.

7, Tobias S. Buckell: A Jar of Godwill

The gedda are an alien race whose economics are based on patent rights on the technology. Since they’ve previously developed tech that humans use, they own the patents. Alex is a professional friend. A genetically engineered human (a hermaphrodite) whose job is to, essentially, keep humans sane in the vastness of space with empathy and touch (not necessarily sex). However, Alex’s account is overdrawn and his only chance is to take a job in an approaching spaceship full of scientists. Alex’s job is to befriend a drone, another engineered human who is part of a hive mind but who is now far away from the hive. Published in the “Final Frontier” anthology.

8, John Scalzi: The Dispatcher

In this world, people can’t be murdered because anyone who is killed intentionally comes back. The main character is a dispatcher: his job is to humanely put down people who need it.

9, Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Becalmed

A Diving universe novella but you don’t need to read any of the other stories.

Mae is one of three people who are still alive from her group of twenty-seven linguists. They went down to a planet to meet with and learn from people who are reputed to be extremely violent. Mae returned caked in blood and with no memory of what happened to her and the rest of her team.

It’s about a culture clash and it’s also a psychological story where Mae struggles with the past she doesn’t want to know.

10, Connie Wills: Fire Watch

Time traveling to the past is hard. But it’s even harder when you’ve been preparing to walk with Saint Paul himself – and are sent instead to St. Paul’s in the middle of air raids. The main character tries to prepare as well as possible, but it might not be enough.

A collection of SF short stories, novellettes, and one novella. The first in an SF anthology series.


Format: ebook

Publisher: WMG Publishing

Page count from GoodReads: 506

Publishing year: 2021

The theme of the collection is cities. The stories are quite varied, including a terrorist’s manifesto, a detective story, and romances. Three are set in the Seeders universe from Smith which deals with survivors living after most of humanity has died. Rusch has also one survivor story. Most are set on Earth but a couple are set in alien worlds and one is on a space station.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch

The City’s Edge (2016), a novelette: Petras’ wife is dead. To cope with her death and to continue to be a father to their two children, Petras needs to see her body and see where she died. He also tries to understand why she died.

Dunyon (2011): The story is set in a remote outpost that is a resort for the very rich. But now it’s also the last stop for desperate refugees. The main character runs a bar and hears all sorts of things. Then one customer claims that the MC knows how to get to Dunyon, a safe haven. But the MC has never even heard about it. When more people demand to be taken to Dunyon, she investigates before things get out of control.

One Small Step (2008): Nyalou is the newest member of the Tranquility Base’s Council on the Moon. The others intimidate her. But when the richest member starts to say that the Arrival Monument and the footprint must go so that the land can be sold for huge profit, Nyalou disagrees, to her own surprise. She hasn’t gone to the Monument since she was a kid. But she agrees to find out if people still go to see Armstrong’s footprint.

Earth Day (2013): The main character’s mother was obsessed with Earth Day and saving the planet. The MC is obsessed with his mom and in her memory, he will save the planet.

Snapshots (2014): When Cleavon was ten years old in 1955 Chicago, he saw for the first time a murder victim, a black boy just like himself. Years later, he fled the city to raise his family in peace. But to his horror, his daughter gets a scholarship and is returning to Chicago despite his objections.

Voyeuristic Tendencies (2014), a novelette. Maggie keeps herself invisible because of her talent and because of the money she makes using her talent. She’s a telepath who can only read minds, not influence them in any way. She uses the information she gets, usually about cheating spouses, and makes good money. But when an old man approaches her claiming he had the same talent, he says that she will go insane when she’s forty.

Coolhunting (1998), a novella: Steffie Storm-Warning is a coolhunter, searching for the next trend. It’s lonely work but she loves her independence and anonymity. The trend is a human doing something cool or wearing something cool. The trend can last a couple of days to a few weeks. Steffie has a honed sense of what would be cool. She records the subject and sends the recording to companies that can use them. She had a strange and difficult childhood which is the reason why she prefers to be anonymious but now her family needs her.

Story Child (1990): Michael was left behind in the Abandonment. Every child and many adults just disappeared overnight, including his wife and child. The people left behind are plagued by unknown illnesses. For two years Michael has been the only doctor in town, fighting to keep people alive and fighting against his exhaustion and helplessness. Then, the story child appears hovering in a skimmer.

Sing (1987): The nameless main character of the story is a native of her planet. One day a human tells her that he wants to record her singing. But she doesn’t know what that means. Her culture has no words for music or anything related to music. She’s suspicious.

Dancers Like Children [Alien Influences] (1991) a novelette: Dr. Justin Schafer specializes in both alien and human psychology. However, ten years ago he made a horrible mistake and hasn’t been practicing since. He’s been called to the Bountiful colony on an alien planet because someone is brutally killing children inside the colony dome. The locals are convinced that the killers are the local aliens called Dancers because the kids had been murdered in a way that mimics a Dancer ritual. Justin takes the job reluctantly, hoping he won’t make mistakes this time.

Dean Wesley Smith

Playing in the Street (1995) a novelette: In 2030, Moscow, Idaho is a dead town. People died instantly. The main character returns there in protective gear to look at his dead parents. He knows what happened to the town and it all started back in 1913.

Keep Hoping for a New Tomorrow (2017): Martin Knight runs a popular talk show Here and Now where he interviews people stuck in time. And there are a lot of people to interview: everyone on Earth. For 7,987 times everyone on the planet has been experiencing the same 66 minutes over and over again. However, their minds have not been affected. They know it’s happening so they can change what they do after the time loop starts repeating again.

A Bad Patch of Humanity [The Seeders Universe] (2015): Four years ago, an electromagnetic pulse killed off every human who wasn’t underground. The survivors have rebuilt a few cities. Angie Park is looking for survivors and telling them that other humans still live. Most people she meets are first afraid but then relieved. But the small group she meets this time is quite different.

Nostalgia 101 (2006): A thousand years ago, humanity used nanites to prolong their own lives. When the sun started to cool, humans built domes. Now, a group of relatively young humans is looking to pass Nostalgia 101 class. Because boredom isn’t the threat. Nostalgia is.

Out of Coffee Experience (2013): Arrington is a time-artist: he goes back in time and captures a split second of a split second so that people from his time can come and view the moment as art. He also hates coffee so he decided to make his newest, and no doubt most popular, piece of art in a coffee shop in 2004.

Remember Me to Your Children (2014): Part of the Seeders universe, this is also a story about people who survived the Event. Tammy and Hal are part of Respect project, looking into homes so that they can record the names and lives of people who lived there and lay the bodies to rest in a new cemetery. This time Tammy and Hal find something unexpected.

Neighborhoods (2013): Big Ed is a self-made millionaire who is used to solving problems nobody else can. But living in Chicago he can’t help but hear all the time about gun violence and children dying. Nobody seems to be able to do anything about it. But Big Ed comes up with a crazy plan.

To Remember a Single Minute (2015): Mike Hanley has lived a full life but now he’s facing a disease that will take his memories from him. However, Remember Incorporated will guarantee that he will always remember one minute of his life.

He Meant No Harm [Bryant Street] (2016): Dennis Phipps’s grandmother has passed away and he returns to the old family house on Bryant Street, to clean it up. The other houses seem to be abandoned, too. He finds something that reminds him of his childhood and wants to try it out again.

Shadow in the City [The Seeders Universe] (2003): Carey has been living alone since the Event happened four years ago. She hiked from dead Portland, Oregon to the coast. Now, she’s returning to Portland with the faint hope that someone else might have survived, too. Hopefully someone still sane.

I’ve read two of Rusch’s stories before, Coolhunting and Dancers like Children. I enjoyed them again and I enjoyed all the stories.

Here are some of my favorite small press stories:

1, Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Diving into the Wreck

WMG Publishing. This is the first book in a series. Boss dives old spaceships. It’s dangerous work and so she prefers to work alone. But then she finds a ship that is old enough that it shouldn’t exist at all at the place where she found it, she gathers together a team who can explore it. Boss is a woman in her forties and we never find out her real name.

2, Dean Wesley Smith, ed: Fiction River: Moonscapes

WMG Publishing. A short story collection. The stories are all set on a moon, either our own or some other planet’s moon. I enjoyed all the stories.

Fiction River is a series of short story collections. Some have clear themes, such as Moonscapes, Unnatural Worlds, and Time Streams. Some have a more generic theme, such as Justice or Pulse Pounders, and they have stories from various genres.

3, David B. Coe and Joshua Palmatier: Galactic Stew

Zombies need Brains. Another very enjoyable short story collection. This one is centered on food in SF settings.

4, Karen A. Wyle: Playback Effect

Oblique Angles Press. Playback Effect is near future, thoughtful SF about how technology affects humans and whole societies. The setting is the near future where people have invented the technology to record what other people experience and then play it back and experience it themselves. Feelings can be recorded and one of the main characters is a professional dreamer who records her dreams for others to buy and experience. However, specifics and details aren’t yet recorded.

5, Scott Warren: Vick’s Vultures

Parvus Press. Victoria and her crew salvage alien tech from starships crippled in battle. But on one ship, the commander and a handful of his crew are still alive. The commander is a Prince of his race and strikers a deal with the puny humans to survive.

6, Karl Gallagher: Torchship

Kelt Haven Press. The first book in a trilogy but can be read as a stand-alone. Mitchie Long is a secret agent sent to a cargo ship as a pilot. She’s used to going undercover and lying to everyone. However. when she must fight alongside the small crew, she starts to feel a connection with them. It doesn’t have one story but several connected tasks, like a TV miniseries. I enjoyed them all.

7, R. J. Theodore: Flotsam

Parvus Press. Talis is the captain of Wind Saber, a small airship with a total crew of four people. To keep her vessel in the air, Talis is sometimes forced to take jobs that are borderline legal, or outright illegal. She takes an easy-sounding job from a trusted man: an old ring needed to be retrieved from the wreckage of an airship. Talis agreed to the job even though the payment barely covers the cost of the equipment needed for diving the wreck. Of course, things go wrong.

I also have quite a few small press and self-published books in my TBR:

8, Anthea Sharp: Star Compass

Fiddlehead Press. Charles Dickens meets Firefly in this tale of an orphan destined for the stars.

Steampunk with a twist! Enter a fantastical world filled with alien spacecraft and Victorian sensibilities, ball gowns and travel to the stars – where a pickpocket with a particular gift yearns for the stars…

9, M.H. Thaung: Diamond Device

Caroline Thaung. After diamond power promises to replace steam, an unemployed labourer and a thieving noble unite to foil an international plot and avert a war.

10, Kari Kilgore: The Becalmed

Spiral Publishing, Ltd. Bitan, the most valuable commodity in the human universe, only comes from one planet.

And that planet has a problem.

The TransGalactic Corporation sends Luis Ahmad, Chief Psych Officer, on a desperate mission to save the human colony on Bitanthra.

Can Luis solve the mystery in time to stop the collapse of communications throughout the galaxy?

The first book in the Children of Time SF series.


Publication year: 2015

Format: Audio

Running time: 16 hours, 31 minutes

Narrator: Mel Hudson

I haven’t read a book like this before. It has an alien perspective and a human perspective.

In the distant future, humans have engineered a nano-virus that can “elevate” an animal to a human level of intelligence and consciousness. The virus will also accelerate the process. Doctor Avrana Kern needs to spread human intelligence throughout the stars. She starts by seeding an alien planet with monkeys and the virus. Their evolution will, of course, take thousands of years, so she won’t be there to witness it. Instead, she will seed other planets. Unfortunately, Earth has a strong movement against tampering with other planets. One of those people infiltrated Kern’s mission and sabotages the launch of the monkeys to the planet. He also destroys Kern’s ship and the monkeys. Kern manages to upload her mind to the satellite she has left orbiting the alien planet. The virus spreads on the planet but doesn’t have Earthlike mammals to infect. Instead, it infests spiders.

A couple of thousand years later, humanity’s last ark ship the Gilgamesh is nearing Kern’s world. The ship simply doesn’t have the resources to maintain its cargo of thousands of cryosleeping humans infinitely. So, based on old, old records the ship’s captain, Guyen, has chosen this world as most likely to be able to support human life. He wakes up a classicist, Holsten, who has studied the old Earth. Guyen commands Holsten to translate the old Empire’s language and contact the satellite around the planet.

Meanwhile on the planet, the spiders have grown intelligent and are forming societies. We see through the eyes of Portia and her descendants how the spiders develop languages and customs. Eventually, they also form religion and organized warfare. They also keep ants as servants. Because of their different physiology, their language isn’t human-like and they command ants through scents.

The humans aboard the Gilgamesh start to fight among themselves (as usual). Holsten is in cryosleep for much of the time and each time when he wakes up, the situation has changed. However, I was far more interested in the spiders. The curious spiders with their scientific mindsets seemed more interesting than the power-hungry and increasingly savage humans who just love to fight each other. Of course, the two species are heading toward a confrontation.

The writing styles for the two factions are different. Holsten is the POV character in the human chapters which are written in a tight third POV. But the spider chapters are from an omniscient view. They have a spider POV character but the narrator also summarises the development of the spider society.

This was a very entertaining and compelling read. The final chapter continues the story but it’s not a cliffhanger.

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