A collection of decent, but not great sci-fi short stories that did not have too many surprises. Perhaps the biggest surprise on opening it up was the thought that "wait, haven't I read these before?" And after going through a couple of the stories and examining my memories, I'm pretty sure that at one point in the past I read several of the initial stories before getting distracted/bored and moving on to something else. That's ok though; the mediocre stories I had forgotten and got to experience again, while the better stories I remembered but also liked enough that I wanted to read them again.
So, a quick run down of the contents, from best to worst:
To Raise a Mutiny: best story; has lesbians and lasers if not dragons. Also prompted the realization that wait; AI ships are basically the sci-fi equivalent of dragons, so it kind of has dragons too. Also neat connections between FTL travel and emotional bonds, as well as an invention packed universe and a pleasantly gothic/ambiguous ending.
Lost Princess Game: fast, interesting, and fundamentally accurate about oligarchs.
Catastrophe Baker and a Canticle for Leibowitz: a wonderfully dumb 10 page shaggy dog story.
From the Heart: A nice plot shift mid-way through the story
The Tenth Muse, Defect, Punctuality, Crackle Grackle, Helvetican Renaissance, Join the Navy, Space Pirates: OK!
Shell Game: It's Neal Asher! Highly violent short stories that are kind of smart but not really that smart. In particular there's this Chekhov's gun of "tiny worm parasites that can infect and modify people" that never actually goes off (as far as I can tell, I was expecting it go off but can't find but the merest smidgen of textual support for that). It's like introducing _The Thing_ but never having it take someone's face.
The Island: It's Peter Watts! Intelligent writing but super focused on his own ideology to the detriment of narrative/enjoyability.
To Go Boldly: It's Cory Doctorow! It has this Sid Byrd affect where it communicates semi, kind of, intelligent ideas in a weirdly aggressive and toxic and self important manner. I blame Doctorow for setting out a poor model for impressionable youths.
Tale of the Wicked: It's Scalzi (TM)! He always seems to be drawing with crayons compared to other authors. His story was at least short.
Chameleons: It's Elizabeth Moon-Moon! It prompted another interesting connection, between this story and MetaFilter's analysis of Tom Clancy as the ultimate Boomer-Dad author. To wit:
The books are obsessed with the logistics of getting from place to place. If an airport can be name-dropped, it will be, as well as the airlines involved and the models of planes being flown. Trips by car will always have their route discussed, with attention paid to traffic, efficiency, and how the driver knows a special shortcut. Spend five minutes talking to a Boomer dad, especially a Midwestern one, and this will all become immediately familiar.
And a lot of these characteristic Clancyisms are in Moon-Moons stories, just this constant focus on the most boring and mundane details of transportation in this future universe. Anyway, the story was simple and unenlightening, kind of a space Hardy Boys.