Turning It Off, by Susan Forest
Premise: This story is set in a futuristic society in which all of the characters - and their technological devices - have safety shields which prevent accidental injury. As you can probably guess, thrill seeking in this environment involves turning off those safeties -- and this is precisely what our young protagonists wish to do.
Steph's Comments: Interesting concept, interesting message. What Forest seems to be arguing for here is the value of risk. She paints life without pain as stultifying in the extreme, while life without the safeties is depicted as physically - even sexually - exciting. And I can't really fault Forest's instincts here. As much as we all wish that suffering were not an inherent feature of human existence, it is in fact a marvelous motivator and teaching tool.
Steph's Rating: 8.5
Freudian Slipstream, by Brad Aiken
Premise: The main character in this story is a scientist who's being shipped to a distant Earth colony in order to come up with an antidote for a local creature's skin-melting toxin. It's a long trip, so the aforementioned scientist has been placed in a kind of stasis in which a computer keeps his mind active through a strange sort of dream state.
Steph's Comments: This is another solid concept. However, it doesn't really engender an emotional or intellectual response in this reader. It's a decently written problem-solver, but not much more.
Steph's Rating: 6.7
Hidden, Kyle Kirkland
Premise: Some years previous to the start of this story, a pharmaceutical company invented a drug that could rapidly enhance a very young child's brainpower, thereby creating a "supergenius." Unfortunately, these supergeniuses were discovered to have very short life spans, so the drug was eventually outlawed thanks in large part to the efforts of this story's main character.
Now let's flashforward to the present: A supergenius has taken control of a weapons research facility, and the military calls in the protagonist to help talk the young man down.
Steph's Comments: This story was a pleasant surprise. When Robinson starts spouting off his anti-military "they're all warmongers" crap, I was afraid this story was going to devolve into typical leftist bull. In actuality, the real bad guys turn out to be politicians driven by ideology -- and Kirkland is very careful to point out that said ideology is not the "right wing" phenomenon Robinson assumes it is. Nice. I do wish, though, that more had been done with Flik's theory regarding hidden forms of life on Earth, as I found that thread far more interesting.
Steph's Rating: 7.5
Art for Splendor's Sake, Dave Creek
Premise: An Earth ambassador tries to move a planet's indigenous population out of the way of a coming gas nebula and runs into some cultural communication issues.
Steph's Comments: Eh. I feel like this story needs to be longer. The alien society doesn't have depth for me; indeed, it feels like a stereotypical sketch rather than an attempt at genuine world building. Oh well. I suppose you can't like them all.
Steph's Rating: 5.0