Review: Engineering Infinity

Engineering Infinity is a collection of recent hard SF short stories edited by Jonathan Strahan.  Strahan does a fine job keeping things hard – which is to say stories that turn on current scientific ideas – without making them heartless or humorless.  Overall this is an excellent selection of stories that encourage thought about old tropes in new ways, which is one of the reasons I enjoy SF.

I should say that I grabbed this collection out of a desire to recapture the fun of spending a rainy day or long car trip sampling cool short stories.  For my money SF is the best genre for this kind of thing, because any story has the chance to turn your assumptions on their head.  In a collection like this, if the one you are reading now does not make your ideas flip, the next one will be right along.

By that metric, this collection was a smashing success.  There was a wide range of ideas and writing styles on display, many of them to my taste.  Even the stories I didn’t like were clearly trying something interesting, even when I did not think they succeeded.  Some clung more closely to genre conventions, but it was rare that a story in here did not offer some new twist.  It is to Strahan’s credit that the topics and tones do not overlap much at all.  This is a great sampler.

As I say, there was much to like in here.  My top three were “Bit Rot” from Charles Stross, “Malak” from Peter Watts, and “The Birds and the Bees and the Gasoline Trees” by John Barnes.  The last was particularly successful in throwing ideas out at a rate that well exceeded the length of the story.  And if you don’t want to read a story with that title, I’m not sure I want to talk to you.

If one of your ideas of fun is sitting down to gobble up short blasts of adventurous writing on hard SF kinds of topics, this is a good collection.


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