The Cambist and Lord Iron
This is quite a fun story, certainly one for the economists out there; a cambist (currency-exchanger) is presented with increasingly difficult dilemmas of exchange – pure economic exchange, if viewed in the right way (that’s a minor spoiler, by the by) – and has to solve them. It’s a lovely story, with the characters really well drawn, especially Olaf, the cambist; a great piece, and a really good explanation of a truly arcane piece of economics. Flat Diane
This is a spooky story; it’s a bit of modern voodoo, I guess, and a tale of unintended consequences. Both Ian and Diane grow over the course of the story, and become strong characters in their own right; similarly, other characters appear and Diane changes. It’s a skilfully told tale, with the worst elements practiced effectively and efficiently; similarly, the best moments are really moving in themselves. A scary, and very different, story. The Best Monkey
This is a rather Chiang-like story (although I’m thinking Abraham and Chiang belong in a very similar category…) about aesthetics and its effect on science, and on life. It’s a beautiful story, with a wonderful first-person narrator; set in the near future, it’s a piece of investigative journalism by Jimmy, who is old and nearing burn-out. It’s a good piece, and raises some really good questions without trying to solidly answer them – intellectual, without being pushy or obscure about it, and without trying to tell the reader what to think. Great stuff. The Support Technician Tango
This is a great story of tech support, of tango, of self-help books being self-aware and evil… and of romance. Abraham has a wicked sense of humour, and in this story he really does let it show; the thing fits together perfectly, and whilst there are some genuinely grim and worrying moments, in more general terms its light-hearted fun. The characters are a little two-dimensional and stereotypical, although Sarah the receptionist isn’t; but the plot moves quite fast, and the whimsy doesn’t feel overdone. A hilarious story. A Hunter in Arin-Qin
This is a good slow-burning tale that works itself towards a climax that, really, is a bit of a blinder. The build-up creates characters, and times, and events vividly without using the pen-stroke too precisely to allow the imagination to work; and the back-story told in the tale is invaluable and incredible. Abraham’s ability to create a story and an enemy is grand, and the climax of this one is unexpected and well-played, moving and yet (purposefully) it leaves one a little cold. Leviathan Wept
This is an interesting story – very Hobbesian, as the name would suggest (and Hobbes does come up; it bears thinking about…). It’s a story of the near-future and of a Singularity event, perhaps; and about how peace can come. Abraham creates a cast of sympathetic characters and makes them do awful things – as soldiers, after all – whilst also throwing them into a problematic state; he also pushes an interesting and unusual political philosophy through the story. This is a nice little tale, well worth reading – and perhaps distributing to intelligence agencies the world over… Exclusion
This is a really good one - let down by the beginning, but otherwise one of the absolute stand-outs of the collection. The description in the jacket flap is misleading, and the first part of the story is rather… melodramatic, in some ways, but the rest of it’s really good. Abraham’s discussion of maturity and how to deal with conflict is really interesting, and whilst the scaled-up versions of it are stuck in at the front (without really being explained… it’s a poorly started story, though it continues really well) the human version played out through its 15-20 pages is excellent and moving. Really interesting in this world of social networks &c. As Sweet
This is a nice, sweet tale of love and romance – and what those really are; about how growing up and growing old are not the same thing; and about what the difference between Romeo and Juliet, and a couple married for years, is. It’s an interesting story, with a nice moral and a light touch; but somewhat heavy-handed in making its point blunt and clear. A sweet tale, though – as sweet as a rose, maybe… The Curandero and the Swede
America is a land of immigrants, a “border town” as Abraham puts it in this story… and it’s a land of stories; Neil Gaiman’s American Gods
demonstrates that well enough, for example. However, this story is more than just a story of America – it is an American story, and an American story in a very particular way. It’s a story about stories, about America, about people, and about all different “immigrants” to the story itself. It’s a really good tale, a wonderful piece of folklore, and really good on meaning and, again, at its heart, about romance. Wonderful stuff.
All in all, this is a fantastic collection of stories, well worth reading, up there with Ted Chiang's Stories of Your Life
, and deeply moving... I read them in a day, and it was hard to put them down, even when I needed to. Few duff notes, and a powerful tour-de-force.