Shineanthology’s Weblog

An anthology of optimistic, near future SF

SHINE reviews, part 2: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Things are moving so fast in the day job and with SHINE (I hope to announce where you can get DRM-free E-versions of the anthology soon, thanks to the people of Solaris Books working very hard on this behind the scenes), meaning I’m struggling to keep up.

Here’s a catch-up with some of the earlier reviews out there (I know: there are more recent reviews: I will post about those in a few days, otherwise this post will just burst out of its seams…;-). Cue to Ennio Morricone:

The Good:

For an anthology with a very tight remit — optimistic near-future science fiction — there is a huge variety in the stories themselves. It occurs to me that this book is the perfect introduction to SF for readers who wouldn’t normally venture into the genre.

Outreach again! Make no mistake: if SHINE becomes one of the gateway drugs to lure innocent readers into SF, then I’m all the happier for it.

  • Sumit Paul-Choudhury at New Scientist proclaimed: ‘The near future looks brighter than ever‘, and while — like every other reviewer — he didn’t like certain stories (and interestingly this differs very much from reviewer to reviewer), in the end his thumbs are up:

But it would be difficult — some might say doubly impossible — for every entry in an anthology as ambitious as Shine to appeal to every reader. It is to de Vries’ credit that all but the most hard-hearted of sci-fi readers should find their own brand of optimism represented somewhere among Shine‘s array of bright futures.

  • While Val (not his real name) at Val’s Random Comments admits that ‘I am by no means optimistic about the (near) future’, it does seem that SHINE won him over (even if only temporarily):

The diversity of the stories and the consistently high quality of this collection is testament to his passion for this project. Where some themed anthologies struggle to collect enough stories that fit the scope of the anthology well enough, Shine manages to make one statement out this diversity. It does not propose solutions to the world’s problems but it does offer hope that we’ll be able to climb out on that handbasket after all. A shining example of what positive thinking can achieve.

  • Jonathan Cowie at Concantenation took the trouble to write a lengthy review where he touches upon almost every aspect of the anthology (he told me at the SHINE launch party at Adyssey that it took him a full day to write it: it shows, and thanks). In the end, he’s quite positive about it:

More than enough tales to keep you satisfied. As I indicated, this is not a perfect collection (few are) but it did set itself very ambitious goals. Yet there are enough sufficiently good tales, if not outright hits, to say that this anthology does in its way markedly stand out from the crowd, and so serious SF readers will want to keep an eye out for it.

The Bad:

  • Well, the worst mention so far — on a good place, at that — isn’t that bad: Neville Hawcock of the Financial Times initially proclaims it (in his very short review) a ‘mixed result‘, and takes me to task for the intro- and outro tweets (“the tweets appended to each story are toe-curling”). But he also mentions the stories (which are considerably longer than the tweets) that he enjoyed:

But there are some strong stories: “Overhead”, Jason Stoddard’s sketch of a moon colony, is the best; Holly Phillips’s “Summer Ice”, set in a greener future metropolis, and Kay Kenyon’s “Castoff World”, also satisfy.

For any value of ‘bad’, I’ll take it.

The Ugly:

  • To be frank, Liviu Suciu’s review at Fantasy Book Critic isn’t actually bad (he rates SHINE a B+), and as any reviewer he’s totally entitled to his opinion and taste. The ‘ugly’ part I’m referring to is in an assumption he makes right in his first paragraph:

“Shine” is an anthology that comes with a lot of hype and an introduction that is utterly misleading — or maybe it’s me and Mr. de Vries having quite different definitions of the terms *sf* and *optimistic* — since what Shine is about is mostly *mundane near future sf* extrapolated from current headlines, or sometimes even yesterday’s headlines like carbon trading — and by optimistic, Mr. de Vries means something that to me is almost Utopian considering what human history teaches us [more…]

I have no problem with Liviu Suciu having a totally different view of *optimistic*: each to his own. However, I am *not* limiting the *definition* of SF to that of the near future: no, the theme of this particular anthology is — as clearly written above the huge “SHINE” letters on the cover — ‘an anthology of near-future optimistic SF’. Also, in  the introduction I write:

This was not an easy task, or as Jason Stoddard had it: ‘There’s nothing like taking on two kinds of impossible’

Impossible part 1 is getting SF authors to write an optimistic story. Impossible part 2 is getting them to write about the near future, which is immensely hard to do right, as well.

That Liviu Suciu doesn’t like near-future SF is also totally up to his taste and preferences. But at no point did I state that SF should be limited to *mundane near future SF*: that’s a bit like saying that Ellen Datlow, with her recent anthology Tails of Wonder, is limiting all of the genre to just stories about cats, or that John Joseph Adams, with The Living Dead (1 or 2) is limiting horror to just zombies.

Having said that, his verdict can be summarised as:

This being said, “Shine” starts with a bang with six stories that I enjoyed a lot and could not stop reading, but after that it became very hit and miss for me though several stories from the second part are quite touching but without the sf-nal intensity of the first ones.

More reviews (plenty more reviews) to be linked to soon. Stay tuned!

1 Comment»

[…] conclude with “Perhaps optimistic SF is just more upbeat mundane SF?” As I said in the previous reviews post, the theme of SHINE is *near-future*, optimistic SF (very much on purpose, because that is the […]


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