From the moment Mary Shelley took up her pen and a dare, science fiction has inspired, challenged, and entertained audiences. That legacy is alive and thriving in Hannu Rajaniemi and Jacob Weisman’s curated collection The New Voices of Science Fiction. Covering the last five years of rising stars and new arrivals, the collection is a breath of fresh, interstellar air.
Familiar genre themes appear—sentient AI, genetic modifications, virtual reality—but challenge their expected courses. Rebecca Roanhorse’s “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience(TM)” relays discomfort surrounding cultural appropriation and authenticity as tourists pay for virtual vision quests from spirit guides, who themselves feel pressure to be “the right kind of Indian.” A mutinous band of maintenance bots rebel against their ship’s orders to a benevolent end in Suzanne Palmer’s “The Secret Life of Bots,” a collection standout with its touching, original portrayal of friendship and camaraderie.
Some stories serve as cautionary tales, such as the dangers of becoming so engrossed in technology that we neglect our humanity evinced in Lettie Prell’s “The Need for Air.” Climate change forces people into floating cities in Sam J. Miller’s “Calved,” where a desperate father attempts to repair his strained relationship with his teenage son amid cultural tensions. Whether transfused through a post-apocalyptic New York City or a brittle, arctic planet, their warnings are prescient.
Though their far-flung worlds and speculative technologies are captivating, the stories are most striking in their quiet moments, where the universality of the human experience is allowed to breathe across time and space. Amal El-Mohtar’s “Madeleine” portrays a young woman taking part in an experimental drug trial, but the true tension lies in her internal gridlock at the intersection of love and grief. Such moments provide a poignant stillness in the collection’s breakneck sweep across the stars, tying even the most disparate of realms together with a common thread.
The New Voices of Science Fiction portends a bright future for science fiction and the universe at large.
Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The author of this book provided free copies of the book to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. No fee was paid by the author for this review. Foreword Reviews only recommends books that we love. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.