Book Review: Mission Critical, edited by Jonathan Strahan (Four Stars)


Book Review: Mission Critical, edited by Jonathan Strahan

(Four Stars)

“Chance wouldn’t save them. If she left this to chance, they would die.”

The best SF anthology I’ve read in years. Most anthologies trade on famous names or unlikely “best of” claims; this one focuses on short stories and novelettes about what happens after a disaster. Admittedly inspired by Andy Weir’s The Martian. Nice cover art.

“It’s easy to make a ‘hard’ choice when the price is paid by someone else.”

No story rates less than three stars; a few are outstanding. “This is not the Way Home” harks back to the Golden Age of SF but with a protagonist for 21st century sensibilities.

“The adventure narrative brings the wrong people in the process, and wraps everything to keep them there.” Also true of manned warfare, but do you really want to give an AI life-or-death authority?

Perhaps unintentionally, the stories explore both sides of the man versus robot exploration models. “Devil in the Dust” makes the strongest case for taking humans out of exploration, but it also dramatically indicates how wrong that can go.

“The checkerboard-patterned LOX tank, 500 metres in diameter by 500 metres long.” Ridiculous, yet fundamental to the plot. Why transport (and risk damage from) such a quantity of liquid oxygen when it could generated on site? Besides, wouldn’t an established research station recycle and reclaim a high enough percentage to obviate such huge replenishments?

“The bodies were disposed of first, cost out the larger airlocks like so much useless refuse.” All that recyclable organic material?

“Science is all about personality. With the right one, your theories will succeed. With the wrong one, your reality will be ignored.”