Bottom line: B+ and Highly Recommended.
Now that you know what I think, what's in the book? It's a collection of hard science fiction, that is, science-based science fiction. Here's the Wikipedia page if you want more on the topic.
The good parts? Well, it's hard science fiction and it's new, and most of the stories were pretty creative. That's enough for me right there. Most of them were built around a limited set of "what if we developed _____ technology?" type questions. Or at least close enough to that central premise, along with the logical ramifications and how they play out with people. Here's a smattering of some of the stories:
- How will we adapt to a time when body upgrades and rejuvenation have made it difficult to positively ID individuals?
- An early Chinese mathematician devises a digital computer – based on soldiers moving in tight formations. How do the politicians (well, warlords) react?
- Is brain hacking to change your ingrained desires really that good of an idea? (here, have some and see)
- Romeo & Juliet, re-set on a rough-and-tumble Europa mining colony. You know how this one ends, but it's still just as satisfying getting there.
- A semi-autonomious robotic probe on Titan gets a little too close to human for its handlers. Another tragedy.
- What if we could cure Alzheimer's? What would happen if we cured someone who's memories were already 95%+ gone? How could we bring such a patient back from the brink of oblivion?
The bad parts? Some of the tales were clunky. I swear there's one that dusts off the bad 1950's movie line "It's a crazy plan, but it just might work," along with all the stilted dialogue that usually comes in that catbox. Some of the "hard" parts were still a little too soft. A few left the grit of inscrutable 80's cyberpunk in my eyeballs. Finally, the very first story was kind of tough to take, and it put me off the collection for a bit. It's a good story, but having sort of walked a similar mile in the guy's shoes a few years back, it cut a little close.
In the end it all comes together, and the good vastly outweighs the not-so-good. As with The Martian, it is such a relief to see new and forward-thinking sci-fi coming along. Like rye whiskey, the harder the better, and I thoroughly enjoyed this bottle of words.