I hardly even know where to begin with this one. Unlike the last Tachyon collection that I read, I had no previous experience with any of Hannu Rajaniemi’s work, and it really was the perfect primer for anyone interested (and now I really want to read the Jean le Flambeur series).
One issue I often have with short stories is that they feel incomplete. They’re often a snapshot from an implied larger story, and leave me frustrated that I don’t know more about what’s going on. Hannu does the same thing; he has these great big, wonderful worlds that we only get to see a portion of, but he also manages to make each story self-contained. I still wanted to know more about that world, but I had the satisfaction of reaching an end, and that was just fantastic.
I also loved the fact that each story was different from the others in its own way, but there was a common thread exploring how technology has and could shape humanity throughout the collection that really pulled the whole thing together. Given the focus on technology and other SF topics, I did expect to get a little lost in some of the descriptions, but Hannu is a genius at communicating technical information in a way that’s accessible without feeling dumbed down.
I enjoyed every story to one degree or another, excluding the microfiction right at the end - they were just a bit too short for my liking. Standouts were The Jugaad Cathedral, with it’s immersive and invasive reliance on social media for every aspect of life and Invisible Planets, where we’re treated to glimpses of a large range of worlds - there are several that I’d love to explore more.
The crowning glory (and my absolute favourite) though, was section about neurofiction, a process where the story is created based on your own neurological responses. The story included is Snow White is Dead, a Choose Your Own Adventure-style retelling of the fairy tale made up of the most common paths created by the test readers. As a story, it’s a fantastic modern adaptation, and I loved it. From a technology point of view, my mind is completely blown. Being able to create individualised, interactive stories? Fascinating stuff. You can read more about the process here and here.
Even if you’re not that much of a sci-fi fan, I strongly recommend this collection. Sit back, strap yourself in, and enjoy some first-class storytelling.