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Edited by John Scalzi
Tor, $14.99, TPB, 286pp
Release Date: November 19, 2013
This was …interesting. I’m not even sure how I feel about it yet. This is one of those books that will need to percolate a while longer. I may even need to reread it to thoroughly appreciate it. And I’m pretty sure a reread will be just as satisfying.

This is a unique collaboration of five very good authors – Jay Lake, Tobias S. Buckell, Elizabeth Bear, John Scalzi and Karl Schroeder - who came together to invent a new world – a post-event or post-apocalypse (I’m not exactly sure) type of world. But they were not interested in the events that brought the world to this point, they were more interested in how the society might evolve. This is not a grim story but, actually, truly hopeful in a way that is seldom seen in these type of stories.

It’s difficult to give a concise synopsis, there is no central protagonist, no one theme. The first one of the book started out as a pretty familiar scenario. There’s a society (can’t say city in this case) that lives in the northwest woods so close to nature as to be almost invisible. This ‘hiding in plain sight’ disturbs some of those in power; those who fear what they can’t control. So they send agents. The interesting point of this little story is how the author climaxed the book – he really didn’t but he managed to make his point anyway.

The most thought-provoking one for me was about a man working in an urban area when a grass-roots movement to totally ban cars starts to rise. What was fun and even hope-inspiring was how the movement originated and the fact that this was only one goal on their agenda. For a man with no goals in life, this turned out to be more than he ever expected to get from life.

There is a story about a young woman hiding from an abusive spouse who has to decide if she wants to trust an underground group who is engaged in a shady operation: growing food for the masses.

There’s a really fun one about a lazy young man in a city that prides itself on a zero-footprint; where everyone is fed, everyone has a job. But outside the city are masses not so fortunate. Unless he wants to join them, he has to make a choice about a job. And the job he has to ultimately take is about as low down on the rungs as possible to get: pig farmer. But to his surprise, he finds it to be not only personally satisfying but possibly the answer to the hungry masses outside the gates.

And then I come to the last one. If William Gibson and Neal Stephenson write hard-core cyberpunk, then this one from Karl Schroeder is soft-core. A fanciful idea that the world is how we believe it to be; and if enough people believe in a thing, then it becomes real. But what is real when the world disappears from your view with the removal of a pair of glasses?

I know I haven’t given you a lot about these stories but I hope I’ve piqued your interest. These are so well-written and …. Sorry, I find I just can’t encapsulate these ideas. ~~ Catherine Book

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