When life is busy, and my attention span is short, I turn to short stories to fill in the gaps of my day. I enjoy a quick punch of a story to curb a bad mood (or heighten a good one). For me, there is no one better suited to blow my mind in 15 minutes or less than Charlie Jane Anders. With a huge range of topics covered in these 19 stories, she highlights many absurdities of humanity: premise and impulse, art and tragedy, passion and comedy — all with snappy, spare and gorgeous language.
I first heard “As Good As New” read to me by LeVar Burton, but trust me, it’s just as delightful in text form. The story of the last person on Earth and the Genie who can, maybe, fix things is hilarious and heart-warming in surprising ways. “Six Months, Three Days” is a tragic love story that utterly broke me. “A Temporary Embarrassment in Spacetime” was so funny I cried.
Full of beauty, unexpected humor, and revelatory characters, I can say with confidence that there is something in this collection for everyone. Pick it up when you need a shot of the good stuff. ♦
Science Fiction can often seem to follow a formula, to the point where a long-time aficionado (such as myself) can predict the ending from chapter one. In such a speculative and wide-ranging genre, the tropes get old — quickly. Thank all the fiction gods then, that we have the wondrous mind of Cixin Liu to make everything old and rusted seem new and shiny again.
There are 10 stories in this award-winning collection ranging in scope from the galactic to the microscopic. “Mountain” and “Devourer” set up the classic first-contact tropes and delve into the ramifications for humans as a species as well as the affect on the aliens themselves. “Sun of China” and “The Wandering Earth” both explore just how grand and greedy humanity can be, in the right circumstances, while still exploring the limits of science.
The blockbuster success of his “Three-Body Problem” trilogy thrust Liu into the sci-fi spotlight. If you somehow missed his trilogy, then I envy your first taste of just how good sci-fi can be in the right hands. This is “big idea” science fiction at its finest. ♦