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All the Rage This Year: The Phobos Science Fiction Anthology 3
edited by Keith Olexa
Phobos Books, 214 pages

All the Rage This Year: The Phobos Science Fiction Anthology 3
Keith Olexa
Keith Olexa works as Web Content Editor for Phobosweb.com & Phobos Books Editor. He is a freelance writer and CEO of his multi-media entertainment company, XENOGOTHICS. Previous to that, he was the Managing Editor of STARLOG.

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A review by Kit O'Connell

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One of the drawbacks of the average science fiction anthology is the mixture of good and bad stories. One story will entertain while the next will have you groaning at the approach of a predictable conclusion, or just struggling to contain your boredom as you skim ahead to the next story. As a reviewer, these stories are a bit more fun because you know you'll get to skewer them (and editors responsible) publicly; the average reader, lacking a similarly public venue to rant in, generally gets less enjoyment out of these books. Sadly for me, the stories in All the Rage This Year are uniformly readable and so there will be no skewering of authors or editors below. Even the editor's note, which suggests that 'following your dreams' might be a bad thing in some cases, and the introduction, which actually tries to answer the perennial, irritating, question, "Where do you get your ideas?" are worth reading.

That's not to say all the stories in this anthology are fantastic. "Goldentown," by Daniel Conover, seems to revisit familiar tropes about virtual reality and nostalgia just as their protagonists revisit old lovers, though the ending, in which the protagonist continually revisits the last day of his dead wife's life strikes a subtly disquieting note. The dystopian future of "Dissident," by Julie Hyzy holds few surprises for regular SF readers. Though the anthology's titular story, written by David Walton, is certainly entertaining, its central theme of the simple honesty of the poor versus the mercurial affectations of the rich is not one which is likely to strike anyone as a brilliant revelation.

On the other hand, there are stories which will linger longer in the readers' minds. "Veil of Ignorance," by David Barr Kirtley, reminded me pleasantly of the work of Philip K. Dick in its exploration of drugs and consciousness (although, on reflection, its outer space setting seems a touch superfluous). Both Eric James Stone's "The Man Who Moved the Moon," and M. T. Reiten's "Two Rooms and All the Electricity You Can Eat" make deft use of humour and satire. In the former, a movie crew makes waves in a jaded future by deciding to actually film in the real world, rather than simply in the computer simulation where most people live out their lives. "Two Rooms" is one of very few short stories which stars a vending machine, and almost certainly the only one about a vending machine that wants to be a published poet.

All the Rage This Year is a collection of well selected and rewarding stories. I read several of them more than once (unusual for someone like myself who always has a overflowing stack of things to read) and hope to see more from all the authors in this anthology. Though the reviewer is prevented the joy of eviscerating hapless short fiction, the reader comes out far richer.

Copyright © 2005 Kit O'Connell

Kit O'Connell is a writer and book vending machine from Austin, TX. You can read his sporadically updated journal at todfox.livejournal.com.


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