Edited by Jonathan Strahan, Engineering Infinity apparently began life as a quest for a “hard science fiction anthology.” Strahan himself says in his introduction that that’s not strictly what was produced; if you’re really dead keen on categorisations like ‘hard’ vs ‘soft’ sf, I’m quite sure you could have a field day with this anthology, arguing over what warrants which label. I, however, am not one of those people. I just like stories. And this anthology provided a solid set of decent stories. I have three absolute favourites.
Kristine Kathryn Rusch, “Watching the Music Dance.” On the face of it, the story of a couple splitting up and their daughter getting caught in the middle of such messiness. However, there is a lot more going on here, which makes it quite a creepy story. It deals with issues of genetic manipulation, in utero and post, as well as the lengths parents might go to for their children. I can’t help but think Rusch might have watched a few of those kiddie beauty pageant exposes….
Stephen Baxter, “The Invasion of Venus.” I was tempted to just say “this story by Stephen Baxter,” because somehow I missed the title of the story and therefore got totally surprised by the fact that the aliens didn’t approach Earth. What makes this an intriguing story is exactly that point: rather than being smugly Earth-centric, Baxter posits a universe where Earth is so unremarkable that it’s completely bypassed. He also has some interesting things to say about how humans might respond to an alien appearance in our solar system.
Hannu Rajaniemi, “The Server and the Dragon.” There are no human characters in this story, but it does not lack for emotional appeal. After all, people can always relate to the idea of having a purpose but having it thwarted; we can relate to the joy of discovery and the pain of betrayal; and the beauty of the writing in this piece makes it a joy to read. Who doesn’t love the idea of a sentient computer discovering a packet of data that includes a dragon?