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Futures Near and Far by Dave Smeds

Futures Near and Far

by Dave Smeds

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3021367,255 (3.67)1 / 3



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Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I find it difficult to review collections of short stories in great detail, short of going through the contents one story at a time. For me, the basic measure of a collection is how much I enjoy reading it (simplistic, I know). By that standard, _Futures Far and Near_ fares quite well. Most of Smeds's stories are entertaining, easily digestible, and thought-provoking, and he doesn't really stray into any objectionable content. I might come back to this one again. ( )
  baroquem | Sep 15, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This books is a really enjoyable collection of Science Fiction stories. The author writes an introduction to each story to place it in context with his other work and that adds an additional point of interest. The situations in the stories are creative and interesting.

A book that has, as its first sentence, "My daughter killed me Tuesday morning." simply has to be read. ( )
  Hopback | Apr 14, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
These short stories are more human than I expect of pure science fiction. I found myself caring about the characters in most of the stories, and enjoying the detailed descriptions of settings. The science was comprehensible to me, with my high school science education and outside reading in current media and discussions with friends about the current issues including ecology, world health, and global warming. I would read what this author writes in other genres. ( )
  jaelquinn | Mar 9, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I enjoyed this collection, and a fair number of these stories stuck with me for some time after reading. While there was a fair bit of variation on themes and approaches, I felt like they worked well together in one book. The prose was strong and descriptive overall, and I didn't feel as though I was getting pseudo-scientific jargon thrown at me, which sometimes feels like the case with futuristic sci-fi.
I must confess I skipped a few of the introductions, because I felt like they ruined the flow of things for me, and gave entirely too much away. I'd have been happier hearing the author's thoughts after reading the story in question, rather than going in having such insider knowledge. Entirely a personal preference, I think. Another personal preference would have been a little less pessimism; technology has the potential to help us, and does help us, and I think it's important that the line sometimes be clearer that the problems arise from the characters, and not so much the futuristic technology with which they are imbued.
Overall, I enjoyed these, and will probably revisit a few of the stories.
  foldedleaves | Mar 3, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The stories in Futures Near and Far often are bleak, but author Dave Smeds also injects hope into his visions of the future. The strongest stories are "Suicidal Tendencies," "A Marathon Runner in the Human Race," "Fearless," and "A Raven on My Shoulder." Other interesting stories are "Evaporation," "The Easy Way Down from Avernus," and "The Cookie Jar."

The author's introductions to each story provide an insight into his creative process, but they sometimes feel extraneous. A few of the stories objectify women, especially "Reef Apes" and "Evaporation." "Termites" is written in lyrical, yet technically precise, prose. Its storyline, while well-meaning, is neocolonialist.

Smeds fares better in "New Breed" and "Fearless," two stories in which the plots center around karate, one of Smeds' hobbies. In "New Breed," karate enthusiasts travel to zero gravity to compete in a tournament where "[e]ven breathing ... can be a source of propulsion" (Loc. 938). In "Fearless," the benefits of virtual reality are explored. A young man whose legs have been amputated finds strength, courage, and inner peace by using his mind to control surrogate bodies in virtual karate exercises. Both of these stories benefit from Smeds' personal knowledge, and his enthusiasm for karate is infectious.

Smeds also focuses on nanotech's "long-term potential" (Loc. 33). A woman surfs above the planet, knowing her nanotech will allow her body to be reconstituted: "Aiming the surf board at the night-shrouded Pacific, I glided in the atmosphere. I made one hell of a meteor. And within minutes, I was reborn" ("Suicidal Tendencies," Loc. 464-465). In "Evaporation," a marooned whistleblower dies and is reborn multiple times while looking for shelter: "He had control over one and only one aspect of his existence: whether or not to give in to despair" (Loc. 2068).

This advanced technology does come with a price. Immortals inhabit younger, restored bodies, but the nanotech doesn't erase their ancient memories. A widowed former marathon runner has his youth restored by nanotech but finds his new life lonely until he meets a widow who understands his dichotomy. "Even his perspiration evoked an earlier time, when exertion brought out a crisp, pheremonal incense, not the reek of ancient glands" ("Marathon Runner," Loc. 1066). In "The Cookie Jar," a homeless street performer, whose abusive mother used advanced technology to monitor his movements, can't decide whether to make a fresh start in the high tech world or remain off the grid.

Other stories explore the alienation that technologies, environments, or crises can bring. In "A Raven at My Shoulder," a human colonist resents his new, unwanted role as communiqué for the alien species that is sponsoring the humans' terraforming. "Homespun and Handmade" peels back layers to expose the selfishness of a time traveler who exploits a nineteenth century family for her own comfort. A corporate lawyer takes "The Easy Way Down from Avernus" to attend the funeral of his former best friend, a public advocate. He travels through a landscape decimated by climate change but refuses to give up his relatively comfortable life to finish his friend's litigation: "If one is to reside in hell, far better to live as a minion of the devil than as a member of the damned" (Loc. 1437).

Our daily routines and interactions define us. Do we remain human, sometime in the distant future, when those rituals have been displaced by daily regeneration and the ability to become someone new? Smeds approaches this technologically advanced future with a gimlet eye, but he also is fascinated by the possibilities: part wariness, part enthusiasm, this dichotomy threads through all of the stories. In Smeds' vision, humans remain human, despite the outer packaging. They remain a messy, complex, yet immature species that sometimes get its right but often gets it wrong. The wear and tear of aging is lifted, but the weariness of living remains. There's always a tomorrow, and death is a thing of the past. Suffering, however, remains very much a part of equation—but so does the will to live. ( )
  LibraryPerilous | Feb 22, 2015 |
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