BOOK REVIEW: Infinity Wars

Infinity Wars

Title: Infinity Wars

Editor: Jonathan Strahan

Publisher: Solaris

Published: 07/09/17

RRP: £11.99

Award-winning editor, anthologist, and podcaster Jonathan Strahan explores the furthest extremes of military science in this highly anticipated new anthology.

The infinity series is one I have a great admiration for. I love how Strahan gets some of the best writers around to really produce interesting work. These have included some great breakout works like The Girl-Thing Who Went Out For Sushi or Laika’s Ghost, as well as the overall quality involved being very high throughout.

I was, however, still wondering if this collection would be for me. I am not as big a fan of military science fiction as I am of other key subgenres. I should not have been concerned as the authors have taken such a range of different looks it has created something rather special:

The Evenings of Their Span of Days by Carrie Vaughn – 4/5

Vaughn’s story being first act is an interesting statement of intent. For this does not delve into the combat (or even the aftermath of conflict as in her recent Hugo shortlisted work), rather more the gritty engineering side. It is highly character focussed with Opal making a great protagonist and it explores a number of important themes.

The Last Broadcasts by An Owomoyela – 4/5

I came across much of Owomoyela’s work last year and she immediately became one of my favourite short fiction writers. This also takes an interesting look at this topic by looking at the nature of information, something cleverly folded into the story’s style. Whilst I wouldn’t put this as my favourite of Owomoyela’s work it’s another impressive outing.

Faceless Soldiers, Patch Work Ship by Caroline M. Yoachim – 3.5/5

This a story I struggle to get my head around as it is quite dense and filled with arresting imagery. Whilst I believe this may have benefitted from being longer it is still a fascinatingly different look at a more morally questionable kind of warfare.

Dear Sarah by Nancy Kress – 3/5

Taking us to the battlefield of domestic terrorism and further asking us the question of who is in the right in these kind of conflicts. Well written although it lacked the emotional punch I thought it could have done with.

The Moon Is Not a Battlefield by Indrapramit Das – 4.5/5

Das is a writer I much admire for mixing beautiful language with interesting philosophical concepts and this is definitely on display here.

Perfect Gun by Elizabeth Bear – 4/5

An ironic look at the mercs with big guns stories, crafted cleverly enough to call out the problems whilst still producing a story well worth reading.

The Oracle by Dominica Phettplace – 4/5

What would happen if we tried to use the same kind of algorithms we use for digital adverting in order to try to achieve world peace? Whilst some of the beats in this will be quite familiar the perspective it brings is new enough for me.

In Everlasting Wisdom by Aliette de Bodard – 5/5

This is possibly the best story in the collection. It looks carefully at the human consequences of warfare, creates a subtle creeping horror and examines the dangers of the faith that is enforced into the populace during these times. The whole tale builds like an emotional pressure pot, before exploding at the end.

Command and Control by David D. Levine – 2.5/5

As I mentioned at the start I am not the biggest fan of traditional military science fiction, so if you are you may well enjoy this tale more than me. It is certainly well written and action filled, it feels out of place to have such a traditional take in a collection where so much of the rest is taking a sideways look.

Conversations With An Armory by Garth Nix – 3/5

This does exactly what it says on the tin. We get people conversing with the Armory and its perspective on the battle situation. Although what is taking place externally is quite desperate, the Armory seems to have a sense of almost oblivious contentment to it all, which adds a nice touch of dark humour.

Heavies by Rich Larson – 4/5

What would we do to ensure peace? What price are we willing to pay? What at first seems to be a simple murder mystery turns into something much deeper and more complex. Very meaty.

Overburden by Genevieve Valentine – 3/5

This is a much stranger story to unwrap than many of the others, and as such is harder to discuss. Whilst it is centrally about warfare but, like many of these stories, from a distance and looking at the way people are affected by it.

Weather Girl by E. J. Swift – 4.5/5

A very prescient tale looking at how warfare may be waged in the post-climate change era where we are simply trying to survive catastrophic weather conditions and the planet produces weapons of mass destruction much more powerful than humans ever could. Given the recent news this is very chilling.

Mines by Eleanor Arnason – 4/5

It is an interesting choice to put both the (explicitly) post-climate change stories next to each other. This however goes in such a different direction it does not create a feeling of sameness. Instead it is about genetically engineered humans and rats clearing mines on another planet. This could either have come out as ridiculous or twee but Arnason’s deftness and lightness of prose makes this very touching.

ZeroS by Peter Watts – 3/5

This could also be called Welcome To The Zombie Squad, which for me sums up the strengths and weaknesses of this piece. It is strong conceptually, frightening and tense with some interesting moral questions lying just under the surface. I wish it had engaged with these elements more but it is still a very satisfying piece.

Overall, a very strong collection with something in it for everyone. This does indeed showcase some of the best writers in the business looking at an old trope in a new way, as such proving once again the great value of this series.

Rating: 4/5

Reviewer: Kris Vyas-Myall

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