It’s been far too long since we last delved into some of the great short science fiction available for ebook readers everywhere, so let’s head back into it with three great selections!
“From Above” by Jeremy Robinson
Jeremy Robinson is best known for his Jack Sigler series of adventure novels that began with Pulse in 2009 and currently running through a series of novellas termed Chesspocalypse, leading into this year’s release of Ragnarok, as well as his novel Antarktos Rising and its related young adult series, The Last Hunter. “From Above,” a novella also included in Robinson’s short story collection Insomnia, is one of the author’s earlier works, and admittedly it shows at times, mainly in the setting, which felt distinctly underdeveloped. That said, this science fiction noir adventure was a blast to read, in large part because of the excellent characters that Robinson peopled his story with. A far future cop, Priest exudes noir, as a sarcastic, short tempered, and quick witted detective who captures all of the sexism and toughness that all detectives from the noir era embody. Partnered with the strong-willed Rehna, who constantly challenges Priests sexist attitudes with her personification of strong female solidity, and Gawyn, a little girl who is as gruff as Priest and technological savant, Priest sets out to find who is behind two deadly blasts that both nearly killed him, and murdered untold civilians. The story explodes from the page, and is as gripping as it is entertaining. Especially for fans of science fiction mystery, this SF noir workhorse will be sure to please. Get it while it is free!
“Jigsaw” by Douglas Smith
Douglas Smith’s short fiction output is exceptional, to say the least. Sadly under read, Douglas Smith is deserving of an entire “Science Fiction You Haven’t Read…But Should” article all to his own, and you’ll likely see it one day. My introduction to Smith’s work was the short story “Jigsaw,” a space opera beauty. In a future where humanity uses the artifacts of a lost alien civilization to travel among the stars, Cassie Morant, a geologist exploring new worlds, is part of a crew that has a disastrous mishap, with their ship in a degrading orbit and hostile natives taking the landing crew hostage, with the threat of death. It is up to Cassie to explore the religious artifacts of the society holding her captive if she hopes to save the ship and its crew, both in space and captives of the local beings. The story is a lot of fun, with rollicking adventure and a nice, neat conclusion that had me aching to read more from Douglas Smith. “Jigsaw” is available for cheap on its own, as well as part of Smith’s brand new collection, Chimerascope. Fans of Smith are also encouraged to check out the film version of “By Her Hand, She Draws You Down.” The story is found in Chimerascope, as well as part of By Her Hand, She Draws You Down: The Movie Companion Book. Those hesitant about the price tag on Chimerascope are directed to the three story collection Impossibilia, which is both brilliant and cheap. However, after you read it, it will be even harder to stay away from Chimerascope.
Some of the Best from Tor.com: 2011 Edition edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Liz Gorinsky
Tor.com has quickly become a powerhouse when it comes to strong science fiction and fantasy short stories. Available free on their website, and for less than a dollar on the kindle, the broad range and big name authors have really ratcheted up the quality of the storytelling, and creating a wonderful online presence. Celebrating the culmination of a year’s worth of storytelling, Tor released Some of the Best from Tor.com: 2011 Edition, which is available for free on ebook readers. Containing stories from Charlie Jane Anders, Michael Swanwick, James Alan Gardner, Matthew Sanborn Smith, Yoon Ha Lee, Paul Park, Nnedi Okorafor, and Harry Turtledove, this collection is filled with excellent stories. The story quality seems to come in three tiers. Tier One contains Smith’s “Beauty Belongs to the Flowers,” Lee’s “A Vector Alphabet of Interstellar Travel,” and Okorafor’s “Hello, Moto.” These stories were engaging and enjoyable, but didn’t leave much of a long lasting impact. That said, each of these authors is more than worth reading, and that this collection gets readers out and exploring their works is a strong positive. Tier Two contains Swanwick’s “The Dala Horse” and Gardner’s “A Clean Sweep with All the Trimmings.” Swanwick’s story is an exquisitely crafted tale of post-apocalyptic, mythic science fiction, while Gardner’s story is, as Robinson’s “From Above,” a wonderfully fun noir SF adventure, this one poking fun at the noir genre more than Robinson’s piece did, but embracing it just as often as it satirizes it. Both are excellent stories that shouldn’t be missed. In the Third Tier are Anders’ “Six Months, Three Days,” Park’s “Ragnarok,” and Turtledove’s “Shtetl Days.” Anders was a brand new author to me, but she blew me away with her powerful story of love predestined to failure between two people who can see the future. When I first heard the story description, I couldn’t believe it would work, but Anders really tore out an emotionally wrenching and powerful drama that still managed to end with hope. Park’s epic-styled poem was a brilliant tale of violence, vengeance, and revenge, set in a future after an apocalyptic event, but that seems more like the ages of Beowulf. The poetry was brilliant, and sucked the reader in. When it ended, this reader was crushed that there was not more, and instantly checked to see if Park had a sequel poem available elsewhere, or even any other fiction at all. Turtledove’s longer novella was a nicely woven tale of Nazis pretending to be Jews, only to discover that, in a world run by Nazis, being Jewish might just be the best thing you can be. A tale filled with drama and emotion, Turtledove shows once again that he is the master of the alternate history story, and that he is a brilliant storyteller none should miss. These three pieces surpass the rest of the collection, and shouldn’t be missed by any science fiction fans. Truly, these are three of the best stories of the year from any venue. Don’t miss out on this free collection!