Bridging Infinity (Infinity Project)
Edited by Jonathan Strahan
Review by Sam Lubell
Solaris Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781781084199
Date: 08 November 2016 List Price $14.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Jonathan Strahan’s Bridging Infinity is an anthology of 15 original hard science fiction stories by some of the biggest names currently writing SF. Authors include: Alastair Reynolds, Pat Cadigan, Stephen Baxter, Charlie Jane Anders, Tobias Buckell & Karen Lord, Karin Lowachee, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Gregory Benford & Larry Niven, Robert Reed, Pamela Sargent, Allen Steele, Pat Murphy & Paul Doherty, An Owomoyela, Thoraiya Dyer, and Ken Liu. This is a very high overall level of talent, not just a few anchor names. And the book shows an anthology does not have to sacrifice quality in the name of diversity.
The stories are old-fashioned hard science fiction with an emphasis on solving big problems through super-engineering. The stories are highly imaginative with lots of grand-scale sense of wonder.
I especially enjoyed Alastair Reynolds' “Sixteen Questions for Kamala Chatterjee” that alternated variant versions of a woman's doctoral defense on oscillations in the sun with a far future interview of the same woman (after being transformed into a creature that can live on the sun's surface). I also liked "The Mighty Slinger" by Tobias Buckell and Karen Lord about a Calypso group's involvement in a worker's revolution to overthrow the company building a giant ring in the solar system and to preserve the Earth. Alan Steele's “Apache Charley and the Pentagons of Hex” features a huge alien habitat (that makes a Dyson Sphere seem small) shared by many races including a group of human joyriders (think future hobos) who explore past the limits authorized by the human authorities.
Pat Murphy & Paul Doherty have an interesting story about an independent scientist who uses his connections to fight global warming with a "fart catcher" despite government interference. Pamela Sargent's "Monuments" has some great imagery as an AI tries to help generations of governors of a nearly abandoned New York State work to cool the state down so they can experience snow. Ken Liu has another winner with "Seven Birthdays" about a boy's relationship with his busy scientist mother at several stages of their life, including ones after almost all minds have been moved to computers and mankind terraforms planets to bring back extinct (and imaginary) animals.
I was a little disappointed by a couple of stories. Gregory Benford & Larry Niven's "Mice Among Elephants" feels more like the opening to a novel than a story complete in itself. "Rager in Space" by Charlie Jane Anders about two cliché California party girls on the first spaceship to leave the solar system could not decide if it wanted to be humorous or serious. Still these were the exceptions in an overall top-quality selection of stories.
Although hard SF frequently means plot at the expense of characters, that is not the case here. Characterization was strong throughout and a few of the stories were primarily character-based, especially Pat Cadigan's "Six Degrees of Separation Freedom" about a recruiter for an organization that transforms human bodies into a form that can live on other planets and Stephen Baxter's "The Venus Generations" about three generations of a family involved in terraforming Venus.
Fans of hard science fiction will greatly enjoy this book. It is a great sampler of work by many major current SF writers that can enable readers to try a number of authors with less of a time commitment than a shelf of 15 novels.