|edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois|
|Ace Books, 276 pages |
|A review by Todd Richmond|
"In science fiction, though, nanotechnology is already here, an accepted part of the consensus vision among SF writers as to what the future is going to be like to the point where, if your future society doesn't feature the use of nanotech, you have to explain why it doesn't in order to give your future world any credibility at all."Thus many authors incorporate nanotech into their stories. But each author has his or her own idea of how nanotech will fit into the future. Many are content to relegate nanotech to the status of accepted, routine technology (like warp drives or blasters), while others write about the potential dangers nanotech represents.
Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois have done their best to give a range of stories, from Utopia to Armageddon. The collection leads off with Greg Bear's Nebula and Hugo award-winning "Blood Music." This is the original story that was later expanded into the novel with the same title and appears to be the inspiration for the New Outer Limits episode "The New Breed." Vergil Ulam is a scientist who loves his work a little too much. When his research project, the design of medically applicable biochips, is threatened, he injects himself with his creations to prevent their destruction. But as time passes, the nanomachines' imperative to repair and improve has disastrous consequences.
"Margin of Error" by Nancy Kress is a short piece about sisters, competition and revenge. Greg Egan's "Axiomatic" is akin to virtual reality stories. In a world where implants and nanomachines can change your personality and outlook on life, one man attempts to become something he is not in order to deal with the pain in his life.
What if nanomachines could restructure as well as repair? Michael F. Flynn's "Remember'd Kisses" tells the tale of a bioengineer despondent over his wife's death, and the measures that he would go to in order to have her back in his life.
One of the grand, sweeping visions of nanotech is the possibility of terraforming a planet to make it habitable by humans. Ian MacDonald explores the possibility of an alien species doing that to Earth in "Recording Angel."
Kathleen Ann Goonan explores the use of nanotech to stimulate and heighten intelligence. In "Sunflowers" a man's wife and daughter become the victims of a nanotech terrorist attack. Unable to deal with his grief, he deliberately infects himself with the same agent in order to understand what happened to his family. Stephen Baxter writes about living logical structures in "The Logic Pool."
Paul Di Filippo gives us a rare look at a positive, Utopian-like future using nanotechnology. In "Any Major Dude," nanotech is treated like a biological weapon by half of the world. But in the infected half, everyone is healthy, the air and water are clean and power is free and endless. How could anyone be against that?
Almost one quarter of the book is one story -- David Marusek's "We Were Out of Our Mind With Joy." Sam Harger, an artist in Manhattan in 2091, meets Eleanor Starke, a powerful multinational prosecutor. Marusek's vision of the future is filled with virtual reality, nanotechnology and a global network that connects everyone to everything. Sam and Eleanor's relationship is going terrifically well. They have even been given a license to have a child. But then disaster strikes. In this future, a glitch in the system can cost you everything.
The final piece of the collection is "Willy in the Nano-lab" by Geoffery A. Landis. Not a story, but a 12-line poem. Though short, it's cute and effective.
The editors have chosen some fine authors and excellent stories for this collection. I particularly enjoyed Greg Bear's "Blood Music" for its message that perhaps we shouldn't try to improve upon man. David Marusek's "We Were Out of Our Mind With Joy" was more enjoyable for its treatment of a connected society and its routine use of nanotechnology in day-to-day life. It points out that no system is flawless and that when systems touching every portion of our lives make mistakes, innocent people can pay the price.
The only criticism I have of this collection is that none of the pieces are original. They have all appeared elsewhere. Indeed, if you're a big science fiction fan, you've probably seen a number of these stories before. Still, it's nice to have them all in one place.
Todd is a plant molecular developmental biologist who has finally finished 23 years of formal education. He recently fled Madison, WI for the warmer but damper San Francisco Bay Area and likes bad movies, good science fiction, and role-playing games. He began reading science fiction at the age of eight, starting with Heinlein, Silverberg, and Tom Swift books, and has a great fondness for tongue-in-cheek fantasy Óla Terry Pratchett, Craig Shaw Gardner and Robert Asprin.
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