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Humanity 2.0
Edited by Alex shvartsman
Cover Artist: Holly Heisey
Review by Sam Lubell
Phoenix Pick  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781612423098
Date: 01 October 2016

Links: Editor's Website / Publisher's Website / Show Official Info /

Humanity 2.0 edited by Alex Shvartsman is a theme anthology of stories based on the idea that interstellar travel will change what it means to be human. As typical of theme anthologies, some stories here, a mix of reprints and originals, hew closer to the premise than others. Not surprising, most of the stories by the big name authors on the cover are reprints. Although the editor, Alex Shvartsman is known for his humorous stories and anthologies, the stories here are serious.

Some of the stories explored the theme of human transformation.

In Ken Liu's superb story "The Waves", the crew of a generation ship faces an ethical dilemma when a message from Earth contains the secret of immortality since there is not enough room on the ship for everyone to be immortal and have children. The story contrasts this problem with short retellings of various creation myths.

"Justice and Shadow" by Angus McIntyre features a solar sail ship's cyborg crew who normally have nothing to do with the human passengers. But when a triple of workers disappear, accompanied by a human, a team searches for them and enters a forbidden module which turns out to be a library of forgotten knowledge.

"Green Girl Blues" by Martin Shoemaker is a fun story about a criminal's sense of honor as a notorious illegal gene modder tries to keep his word to help a genetically engineered girl who is part-plant change her species and leave her planet. But he is discovered and closely watched by the local police, and then the truth about the girl changes everything.

John Varley’s "Picnic on Nearside" presents a human culture on the moon, after aliens took over the Earth, in which changing one's sex is a quick and easy process.

Several other stories show resistance to the transformation.
The main character in Caroline Yoachim's "The Right Place to Start a Family" has decided that Earth isn't a good place to raise kids, but does not want to be transformed into something that could survive on colony planets.

In "EH" by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, an alien message encoded in humans DNA leads to a way to enhance humans to strengthen their predictive abilities, but the main character refuses to undergo the process.

In "The Hand on the Cradle" by Brenda Cooper, a spaceship pilot, who is, like all pilots, a soulbot, a human inside a robot body, is held captive by a man who calls soulbots an abomination.

"Homecoming" by Mike Resnick, a frequently reprinted story, shows the anger of a man whose son has transformed his body to do science on an alien world. The son has visited home to see his mother who has Alzheimer's. This story nicely contrasts the mother who has a non-normal mind in a normal body with the son who has the reverse.

Other stories are more conventional humans in space stories.
"Nexus" by Nancy Fulda is a fun story about how far a child would go to save a beloved pet that has a very nice twist.

"A Lack of Congenial Solutions" by Kenneth Schneyer is a story of alien revenge on humanity shown presented through a mosaic of excerpts from poetry, oral histories, songs, autobiography, and reports. This is the most experimental of the stories here, as all the rest are conventional narratives.

In "Mindjack" by Jody Lynn Nye, the crew of a spaceship develops a way of entertaining themselves by spying on the dreams of those in hibernation, which seems to be accepted fairly easily by their main victim.

"An Endless Series of Doors" by David Walton explores what happens to elite party-goers in a universe where humans travel via teleportation when that technology breaks down.

"Angry Rose's Lament" by Cat Rambo shows a human negotiator, Paul Rutter, trying to avoid relapsing into his old addiction, faced with an alien who insists that absorbing Rutter be part of the deal.

"The Iron Star" by Robert Silverberg is a well-written first contact story with an ending reflecting a moral lesson, which I found highly unlikely and rather hypocritical.

In "Star Light, Star Bright", by Robert Sawyer, children of humans living on a Dyson sphere see strange lights in the sky that adults cannot see. There's a nice bit in this story about scientists rejecting the idea that humans and their animals could have come from a globe six million body lengths in diameter since the resulting gravity would be so strong that chickens' wings would not allow them to fly.

In general Humanity 2.0 is a solid, good but not great, anthology of mostly traditional short science fiction. Most of the best stories here were reprints, especially the Liu and the Resnick stories. Of the original stories I liked Shoemaker's and Walton's entries the best. Readers with a special interest in interstellar travel or the transformation of humanity will enjoy this anthology. Even for this audience, I'd recommend the $7 ebook rather than the $15 trade paperback especially as the book is only 264 pages.

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