I love how short stories are making such strides in popular fiction, as is speculative fiction. The Forward Collection is a great demonstration of this, and brings together vastly different authors to theorize on what the future might look like. What binds these stories together is their exploration of possible technological advancements in the not too distant future, without ever really giving away if the changes such advancements would bring would be for our collective good or ill. In most of these stories, technology is both our destroyer and our savior. Below you’ll find micro-reviews of each story, progressing from those I enjoyed the least to those that resonated the deepest. As I listened to the audio version of each story, readers are mentioned with the authors.
Randomize by Andy Weir, read by Janina Gavankar: 2.5 stars
It was okay. A bit too mathematically heavy for me to find it interesting. While well written and impeccably narrated, I just can’t make myself care about casinos and the best way to randomly generate numbers and how someone would still find a way to cheat the system.
You Have Arrived at Your Destination by Amor Towles, read by David Harbour: 3.5 stars
This started out great but fell apart by the end. It raised so many philosophical questions about the divisions of our individual lives, and whether those acts can be predicted and even predestined before a child is born. Enjoyable, but also frustrating as it went out not with a bang, but a whimper. Also, Hopper! Any Stranger Things fan will be thrilled to hear him reading this story.
The Last Conversation by Paul Tremblay, read by Steven Strait: 4 stars
The most atmospheric element of this story was Tremblay’s decision to tell it in the second person. It worked very well. In my opinion, this was the story with the most cohesive plot and straightforward ending. It felt finished. I also found it the most disturbing. However, I was unable to make an emotional connection to the perspective character, and somehow felt the story was a bit too long and would’ve benefitted from even more brevity.
Summer Frost by Blake Crouch, read by Rosa Salazar: 4.5 stars
Interesting premise, poignant delivery. It was intriguing and moving and heartbreaking. And scary. It seems like we should know by now, based on The Matrix and Terminator and a plethora of other pop culture theories, that helping A.I. find its way to self-awareness is a terrible idea. This was a very emotional story, and that emotion is what made the tale so powerful. I was entranced.
Ark by Veronica Roth, read by Evan Rachel Wood: 5 stars
This is the story of a dying Earth, and of preserving what we can before we leave it in its desolation and founding a new society on a different planet. Those still on Earth are scientists with no family ties, taking and organizing all the flora and fauna samples they can to be encapsulated on Arks. And these scientists will work until the last possible moment, until the asteroid heading for them drives the remnants of humanity away from their home planet. I love the conversation about nobody ever actually liking Ulysses by James Joyce. I strongly concur, Veronica. Definitely one of the stories I connected with the strongest. I love Roth’s reverence of the wild and varied beauty of our planet, and how much we still have left to discover on its face.
Emergency Skin by N.K. Jemisin, read by Jason Isaacs: 5 stars
I ADORE this one. Everything about it, from tone to plot to choice to tell the story through a second person perspective, was just so spot on. Isaacs did a brilliant job as narrator. I love the fact that we never hear a word, internal or external, from the perspective character. Instead, we hear from the tech within their suit and the voices of outsiders. The story was superbly told and felt incredibly unique. While it was heavy on the social commentary of today, that commentary was magnificently presented and never felt preachy. I agreed so much with where the story took us, and the information we learned along the way. This story was my first experience with Jemisin, (I know, I know, I’ve been living under a rock and promise to do better) but it definitely won’t be my last!
You can find The Forward Collection on Amazon here, available in ebook and audio.