In my last post, Kevin J Anderson and me, I mentioned that I would review this collection, which consists of three short stories and a novelette, all by KJA. So, here we go:
Landscapes – Two pals are dropped off on an uninhabited (but habitable) planet to do some hiking. Although they have a couple of neat sci-fi camping gadgets that I’d like to own, this story is really just an excuse for one of the guys to complain about his job and his wife.
Fondest of Memories – A man’s wife dies in an accident, and he wants her back. He has her cloned, but he’s a middle-aged man and she’s a baby. So, he takes a relativistic-speed spaceship trip, so they’ll be the same biological age when he returns. The remaining problem is that she won’t have his wife’s memories. The cloning company has a solution: he can record his memories of being with her, and a computer can put interpolated memories into her.
The book doesn’t go into this, but were they planning to put the memories of a forty-year-old woman into a baby, then let her acquire forty years of new memories before meeting her husband? Or, were they planning to let the little girl live for forty years, then wipe her memories and replace them with the interpolated ones? Both options seem wrong.
The husband then decides to edit the interpolated memories, removing some nasty arguments they had, and an affair he had. I thought the punchline to the story would be that his editing made him not love the clone, or the clone not love him, but the story just fizzled to a stop before the two even met.
Controlled Experiments – Aboard a space station, experiments to increase the intelligence of rats are successful. The super-rats get pissed off when they learn of humanity’s many lab-rat experiments, and go for revenge.
Human, Martian – One, Two, Three – A novelette about Martian terraforming, which took up about 50% of this collection, and was later turned into a novel, Climbing Olympus.
A first generation of surgically-modified humans did the initial terraforming, but did such a good job that they can now only survive on mountaintops. They’re in conflict with a less-modified group of terraformers, who threaten to make even the mountaintops uninhabitable to the first group. As an additional conflict, unmodified humans are beginning to arrive, and will eventually displace the second group.
That seems like a lot of conflict to work with, but the story devolves into a race to get a pregnant (they were supposed to be sterile) first-group female to low altitude so she can give birth to her (genetically regular human) baby.
If I were using a regular five-star rating system, I’d probably give this collection three stars. That’s higher than the 2.66 average I gave out during the first round of my magazine quest, so I might consider reading the follow-up collection, Alien Landscapes 2.