Some of them will decide that they also want to be beautiful and free, like you. Some will fight for this, if they must. Sometimes that’s all it takes to save a world, you see. A new vision. A new way of thinking, appearing at just the right time.Emergency Skin – N.K. Jemisin
The Forward Collection is a fantastic collection of novellas, all fascinating and complex science-fiction stories reimagining the future. I listened to all of them on audible using kindle unlimited to get them for free in both audio and ebook (and if you’d like to sign up my link is here and at the bottom of this review). The audiobooks are all fantastically narrated and I highly recommend.
Ark by Veronica Roth:
About the book: It’s only two weeks before an asteroid turns home to dust. Though most of Earth has already been evacuated, it’s Samantha’s job to catalog plant samples for the survivors’ unknowable journey beyond. Preparing to stay behind and watch the world end, she makes a final human connection. As certain doom hurtles nearer, the unexpected and beautiful potential for the future begins to flower.
My review: ⭐⭐⭐
This was a poignant story, though it did hurt my feelings thoroughly at the end. I loved the way that this story took the usually heartbreaking idea of an Earth-destroying apocalypse and turned it into something powerful and beautiful, about exploration and the power of human survival. I loved the plant samples idea, that humans were taking samples and tokens of Earth flora and fauna into the future with them – a lot of sci-fi I’ve read involves humans abandoning Earth without a look back.
Summer Frost by Blake Crouch:
About the book: Maxine was made to do one thing: die. Except the minor non-player character in the world Riley is building makes her own impossible decision—veering wildly off course and exploring the boundaries of the map. When the curious Riley extracts her code for closer examination, an emotional relationship develops between them. Soon Riley has all new plans for her spontaneous AI, including bringing Max into the real world. But what if Max has real-world plans of her own?
My review: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
This novella built like a volcano. It started off mildly interesting, with a super intelligent AI behaving in ways that were never expected. And I never expected the way that the novella ended. It was a rug pull of a story, wonderous in its messy complexity. For such a short piece, there was so much packed into this story and by the end of it I was listening with breathless anticipation for the disaster I was sure was incoming. If you like AIs and a building, chilling kind of horror, this is the perfect story for you.
Emergency Skin by N.K. Jemisin:
About the book: An explorer returns to gather information from a climate-ravaged Earth that his ancestors, and others among the planet’s finest, fled centuries ago. The mission comes with a warning: a graveyard world awaits him. But so do those left behind—hopeless and unbeautiful wastes of humanity who should have died out eons ago. After all this time, there’s no telling how they’ve devolved. Steel yourself, soldier. Get in. Get out. And try not to stare.
My review: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Emergency Skin is hard to review. It was a wonderfully strange piece challenging white supremacy and the illogical beliefs that come along with it with an incredible and voicey piece of writing. Those who left the abandoned and damaged Earth, unsurprisingly the white and rich and powerful, sent a soldier back to the graveyard world to find something essential for their survival. The soldier sent back encounters unbeautiful savages – an affront to the eugenics obsessed culture of those who left. This is written in a fantastic second person perspective, as the narrator speaks directly to the listener as he handles the mission.
You Have Arrived at Your Destination by Amor Towles:
About the book: When Sam’s wife first tells him about Vitek, a twenty-first-century fertility lab, he sees it as the natural next step in trying to help their future child get a “leg up” in a competitive world. But the more Sam considers the lives that his child could lead, the more he begins to question his own relationships and the choices he has made in his life.
My review: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
This was chilling, honestly. It started out pretty tame, with a character going to a modern day fertility lab to see an experimental treatment where a child’s life can be predicted nearly in its entirety before conception. The way that it developed was amazing and made me feel deeply unnerved. It was brilliantly put together, packing a surprisingly complicated story into its few pages.
The Last Conversation by Paul Tremblay:
About the book: Imagine you’ve woken up in an unfamiliar room with no memory of who you are, how you got there, or where you were before. All you have is the disconnected voice of an attentive caretaker. Dr. Kuhn is there to help you—physically, emotionally, and psychologically. She’ll help you remember everything. She’ll make sure you reclaim your lost identity. Now answer one question: Are you sure you want to?
My review: ⭐⭐⭐
I was a little confused by this one, which is the only reason it got three stars instead of four. The prose was interesting and well written, and the pacing for such a short novella was fantastic. The concept was brilliant and mostly well executed, but I got a little lost in the middle before it picked up at the end. I think perhaps this one is better read than listened to, but still a very good story indeed.
Randomize by Andy Weir:
About the book: An IT whiz at the Babylon Casino is enlisted to upgrade security for the game of keno and its random-number generator. The new quantum computer system is foolproof. But someone on the inside is no fool. For once the odds may not favor the house—unless human ingenuity isn’t entirely a thing of the past.
My review: ⭐⭐⭐
I love Andy Weir’s writing, so I was looking forward to this one a lot, but it wasn’t as strong as the other entries in the series. The characterisation was excellent and the way that it developed was interesting, but the plot itself wasn’t as wild and adventurous as the rest of the series and it paled a little in comparison. If I’d read this first, I might have enjoyed it more, but it was still a good and quick read.
If you’re interested in trying any of the above, I recommend using this affiliate link for a kindle unlimited trial! If you do, you can get the whole collection for free in ebook and audio, which is how I listened to all of them.