Book review · short fiction collection

Book review: Cyber World – Tales of Humanity’s Tomorrow

Cyber World: Tales of Humanity’s Tomorrow, edited by Jason Heller and Joshua Viola

cover_cyber-world Description: (from Hex Publishers)

Cybernetics. Neuroscience. Nanotechnology. Genetic engineering. Hacktivism. Transhumanism. The world of tomorrow is already here, and the technological changes we all face have inspired a new wave of stories to address our fears, hopes, dreams, and desires as Homo sapiens evolve—or not—into their next incarnation. Cyber World presents diverse tales of humanity’s tomorrow, as told by some of today’s most gripping science fiction visionaries.

Book trailer 

A review copy (eARC) of this book was provided by the publisher through Netgalley. Some things might change in the final copy.

Obviously, this book is full of cyberpunk stories but it also is a reimagination of what cyberpunk is and could be. Like it is said in the afternotes, tones of magic realism can also be found there. I liked that the afternotes explained what they were looking to accomplish here and it really showed the pleasure they had in reading those stories themselves and working in this anthology.

The stories are challenging, sometimes emotionnally and sometimes even to understand. There are a lot of abbrevations that are not easy to understand for a a person that is not a native english speaker, thankfully google is my friend!

img_5424I love the diversity both in characters, locations, sexuality, genre and social norms.
I also liked the illustrations (done by Aaron Lovett) at the beginning of each stories which added a nice touch and made me wondered what these would mean later.

It’s too bad it is not being released for Halloween because it is very dark and brutal at times. Maybe not what I was expecting but when I was three stories in, I better put myself in the mood to appreciate them better.

My favourites were THE SINGULARITY IS IN YOUR HAIR, PANIC CITY and A SONG TRANSMUTED.


SERENADE, by Isabel Yap
I was really hyped about this anthology but was a little bit disappointed with that first one, maybe because of my very hight expectations. But it was a good start nonetheless, a nice slow starting point. That one is about a mysterious USB key, professional Filipino hackers, family ties. It was very humane.

THE MIGHTY PHIN, by Nisi Shawl
A story set in some kind of prison ship in a virtual reality. Phin’s real body was destroyed and her mind was uploaded there so she doubt everything. It was a really nice story about love, with transgender representation, a disabled character (feet deformation) and a really interesting AI.

REACTIONS, by Mario Acevedo
A battle management system, linking human to drones, in a world devastated by a eleven years old war. “A minute ago I was on the other side of the planet,hunting enemy. Now I’m expected to take all that amped-up energy and divert it to house chores.”
So this story deals with the aftereffects of the drugs used to link with the machine. It is quite macabre but in the end it is a story about solidarity and how human interaction is important to survive the hard world we live in.

THE BEES OF KIRIBATI, by Warren Hammond
Kaiko, a translator, is called in to speak to a suspect in a murder case. In this story, people have systems implanted in their brain. “An error message annoyingly vibrated against the back of my skull, a once-a-day warning to upgrade, as if surgery was cheap.”
I thought it was too bad the title actually kinda gave away a big info on what’s going to happen. And the baby farm thing made me very ill at ease.

THE REST BETWEEN TWO NOTES, by Cat Rambo
I really enjoyed Cat Rambo’s collection of short stories (that I reviewed here) so I was very happy when I saw she was in this collection!
The first sentence of that one is “I kill my mother” so uh, right in the mood then!
It’s about the way therapy sessions use a virtual reality but also about the relationships people develop because or thanks to this technology.

THE SINGULARITY IS IN YOUR HAIR, by Matthew Kressel
What and interesting title!
So far it was the first of the anthology that I really enjoyed mostly because of its originality. A young girl is wheelchair bound, she describes herself as a being like a “vegetable” in the meatworld but she builds amazing virtual realities for people and has an interesting relationship with an AI.

PANIC CITY, by Madeline Ashby
That one was from the point of view of a city! Plus it’s a sassy city who judges people on wether they spit on the street or compost their garbage, behaving like a mother with her many babies. It was the most original and I enjoyed it a lot! 

THE FAITHFUL SOLDIER, PROMPTED, by Saladin Ahmed
I read Saladin Ahmed’s novel last year and really enjoyed it so I was happy to get to read something else from him, and in a very different genre! I actually came accross this anthology thanks to a retweet he did and I’m very grateful!
In this height story, a veteran goes on a quest to save his dying wife. There are weird messages appearring in his implant and he thinks they are from God. It was very sad but I was captivated.

YOUR BONES WILL NOT BE UNKNOWN, by Alyssa Wong
That story was badass! A young girl assassin is sent by her boss to kill another boss. There were gory parts with eyes but despite that it was really cool.

STAUNCH, by Paul Graham Raven
I was kinda lost by this one unfortunately, there were just too many elements. I got bored but still tried to understand what was going on. It had to do with the medical field and brexit and its concequences are mentionned. But I liked the ending surprisingly. I think I should re-read it one of these days.

OTHER PEOPLE’S THOUGHTS, by Chinelo Onwualu
This story was set in Lagos and is about an hyper empathic woman. It is a love story, in a world where not only physical alterations are possible but personality traits can also be altered. I liked it, very refreshing.

WYSIOMG, by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro
I found this story really weird. I liked that the main character had a very distinctive voice, even if that’s from a stroke that left him with a speech impairment (long sentences with coordinating conjunction like “and” and “but”). This protagonist and his roomates get a very big ant problem and very weird things happen.

WE WILL TAKE CARE OF OUR OWN, by Angie Hodapp
This story was interesting and touching but I guessed what was going on super early, I could see the strings of the narrative. It was a story about a senator in a presidential campaign, holding press conferences with her aide, a robot by her side. Coruption, personal tragedy and artificial intelligence.

A SONG TRANSMUTED, by Sarah Pinsker
I really loved the beautiful relationship between a grand-father and his grand-daughter. It was a really beautiful story about music, technology, wanting more and working towards that goal. In this case it has to do with physical enhancement.

IT’S ONLY WORDS, by Keith Ferrell
Everybody is connected to some kind of virtual world or network but Sem isn’t. He is proud of doing things his way, putting time and effort in it. At times I felt like he thought about himself as better than the others, but there was also beauty in his way to liking being different, like his mother.

SMALL OFFERINGS, by Paolo Bacigalupi
People who know me know I get super incomfortable around babies and everything that is about them, mostly the delivery. So this story wasn’t a pleasure to read for me. It was even awful and horrific at times. Plus I don’t know but it also felt weird that such a story would be written by a man. Like I’m so very tired of scifi using women bodies and possibilities to write weird stories. That also goes for some of my fave shows like Star trek, BSG or DW. I mean I understand that it has interesting possibilities but that’s a no no for me, sorry.

DARKOUT, by E. Lily Yu
Everybody’s life is recorded and everybody is a “peripheral home-cam star“, basically a reality TV star. The main character there is sad not to attract much viewer and blame it on the fact he is a white male and he is obsessed with watching his ex’s home-cam. So to say he is unlikable is an understatement. That one really felt like it could be a Black Mirror episode!

VISIBLE DAMAGE, by Stephen Graham Jones
Set in the far future I guess since 2028 is seen as the dark ages and an actual paper book and a pencil are seen as antiques. I struggled to understand what was going on.

THE IBEX ON THE DAY OF EXTINCTION, by Minister Faust
Another favourite here! It was perfect for an october read because it was so stressful. It is about a kenyan-canadian eco-tech developer roaming the Nigerian desert in a sand rover, planting trees thanks to terraria and neo-tech divining rods. He leave for his usual few days expedition but his phone doesn’t work. You can sense something isn’t right and something bad is coming. It really kept me at the edge of my seat until the end!

HOW NOTHING HAPPENS, by Darin Bradley
That one was a story about a story, also kind of hard to understand for me, but keep in mind I’m not a native english speaker. I think the fact they put it at the end of the anthology is interesting.

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