Review: The Other Half of the Sky (Feral Astrogators #1) edited by Athena Andreadis and Kay T. Holt (4/4)

July 25, 2016 2016 Review Challenge, 2016 Something For Everyone Challenge, 2016 The Mt. TBR Struggle is Real, 3.0 Stars, Anthology, Book Review, ebook, Science Fiction, series, short story/Vignette, Space & Aliens 0 ★★★

Review: The Other Half of the Sky (Feral Astrogators #1) edited by Athena Andreadis and Kay T. Holt (4/4) three-stars
The Other Half of the Sky by Athena Andreadis, C. W. Johnson, Cat Rambo, Christine Lucas, Jack McDevitt, Kay T. Holt, Kelly Jennings
Series: Feral Astrogators #1
Published by Candlemark & Gleam on January 1, 2013
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 443
Format: eBook
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Women may hold up more than half the sky on earth, but it has been different in heaven: science fiction still is very much a preserve of male protagonists, mostly performing by-the-numbers quests.

In The Other Half of the Sky, editor Athena Andreadis offers readers heroes who happen to be women, doing whatever they would do in universes where they’re fully human: starship captains, planet rulers, explorers, scientists, artists, engineers, craftspeople, pirates, rogues...

As one of the women in Tiptree’s Houston, Houston, Do You Read? says: "We sing a lot. Adventure songs, work songs, mothering songs, mood songs, trouble songs, joke songs, love songs – everything." Everything.

Table of Contents

Dreaming the Dark - Introduction by Athena Andreadis
Finders by Melissa Scott
Bad Day on Boscobel by Alexander Jablokov
In Colors Everywhere by Nisi Shawl
Mission of Greed by Sue Lange
Sailing the Antarsa by Vandana Singh
Landfall from the Blood Star Frontier by Joan Slonczewski
This Alakie and the Death of Dima by Terry Boren
The Waiting Stars by Aliette de Bodard
The Shape of Thought by Ken Liu
Under Falna's Mask by Alex Dally MacFarlane
Mimesis by Martha Wells
Velocity's Ghost by Kelly Jennings
Exit, Interrupted by C. W. Johnson
Dagger and Mask by Cat Rambo
Ouroboros by Christine Lucas
Cathedral by Jack McDevitt

I discovered The Other Half of the Sky in 2014 when the controversy regarding long time hate blogger and new author WinterFox aka RequiresHate aka Benjanun Sriduangkaew. As I was reading up on all of the drama, I noticed there were some decent looking authors being mentioned (the authors were being harassed by Requires Hate and her group of friends). The Other Half of the Sky – with its clear feminist themes AND the promise of Space Opera – caught my eye and I decided to give it a try.

Note: The Other Half of the Sky has 14 stories. I decided to break this review up into 4 posts in order to keep [the review] from being overwhelming. I purchased The Other Half of the Sky in November 2014 – that means this read qualifies for my Mt. TBR reading challenge! The Other Half of the Sky has languished on Mt. TBR for 1 year, 4 months.

 
 

Velocity's Ghost by Kelly Jennings – 2.5 stars
I have to admit, I feel some kind of way about this story. It…felt incomplete. There are so many different things that were discussed in the story but not explained – and this started at the very beginning. There’s a “slick” who (I think it’s a who) is mentioned maybe once when drugged. Then there’s a mechanical bird that pops up out of nowhere to attack the MC…but it is not mentioned as a “surprise bird attack” it was more of “that damn bird!” attack. Which gave me the impression it’d been mentioned already…which sent me on a hunt for a red herring.

There’s also the business with the “heirs” and murder and Combines (vs the Comb? IDK). Also with no explanation as to the import. I really don’t care for plot strings that are given great importance but never truly delved into.

Strangely – with all the issues I had with the story and it’s structure – I was still pretty engaged and very interested in where things would go. There are hints of political intrigue, corruption, murder, assassination for power, brainwashing, fear, distrust and rebellion…but only hints, mind you. Just enough to tease the senses but never enough to feel satisfied in any way.

All of this was circling around in my head when the story was abruptly over. I felt like I’d been hosed, to be honest.

 

Exit, Interrupted by C. W. Johnson – 1 star
I was originally going to give this story 2.5 stars but as I realized how much I was unhappy with the story, I dropped it to 2 stars. Then I dropped it to 1.5 stars. Then I dropped it to 1 star. I…didn’t care for Exit, Interrupted at all. The whole story felt a little rushed and I didn’t enjoy the ending. At all.

The Door concept was…a little silly IMO. The whole concept of space transporter also converting into a time transporter was already a little OTT. So it felt like the author doubled down on that with the addition of “in” Doors vs “out” Doors. It sorta changes the concept of a doorway/portal and makes it into something completely different – like an earring or something. In fact, the more I think about it, the less I like the entire idea and the less it makes sense. View Spoiler »

I read a lot of speculative fiction/SFF – when you read the sheer amount of SpecFic that I read, you get all sorts of “portals” and “doorways” and “transporters” and “gates.” I’ve seen them all – included a Door used to transport in the exact same way as Exit, Interrupted…except the Doorway(s) in that story made more sense.

The greatest sin, IMO, was turning the Door into a flipping time machine (for lack of a better word). No. Just. NO.

 
 
Dagger and Mask by Cat Rambo – 3 stars
I rather enjoyed Dagger and Mask but it was not quite what I was expecting. I felt it…copped out a bit (in regards to the stated goal of the anthology) in that the main character is a man, Eduw. Eduw is in a relationship with the female captain of the ship he is on and the reader sees the female MC, Grania, through Eduw’s eyes. There is only about two paragraphs from the POV of Grania at the very end of the story. All in all, I enjoyed the story even though it was about a woman instead of starring a woman.

 
 

Ouroboros by Christine Lucas – 3.5 stars
Strangely, I really liked this one. Ouroboros is…weird but still rather lyrical in its own way.

“And the universe yawned with the bored indifference of the immortal and stretched in circles and spirals.

Ever-swirling, ever-moving circles.

And circles have no ends.”
Ouroboros

Ouroboros‘s plot revolves around biological engineering and how humans have no real ability to control life once it exists – no matter who made it. Honestly, Ouroboros brings to mind the movie Jurassic Park when Jeff Goldblum’s character (Dr. Malcolm Ian) says something like “Life always finds a way.” And it does – we see this every day in the small things like flowers growing in pavement. Humans are obsessed with the idea of genetic manipulation and Ouroboros has taken that obsession to the next step.

The MC of Ouroboros, Kallie, isn’t human per se. She is a genetically created “slave” that was assumed to be a sterile, unthinking beast of burden. To be used with impunity because they were cheaply created and considered not human.

Over the last century, raw materials had become a rare commodity, unlike genetic material—unlike flesh. These days, Earth Central wouldn’t waste probes of titanium and steel to explore the icy oceans of Europa or the craters of Ganymede. They’d send Kallie and her kin.

They were cheap. Expendable. And no one would miss them.
Ouroboros

But life always finds a way.

Implanted nanobots have connected Kallie to the Universe in some kind of new (and unexpected) way. Her nanobots whisper to her of the past, the present and the future. Her nanobots assist her in “hearing” creation. Kallie’s new sense of self sends her on a [unapproved] hunt for a ghost-prophet thought to be located deep in the hills. This journey will change Kallie’s life and lives of many, many others. The ending was a bit of a anti-climax, however. It closes Kallie’s circle but does not really explain everything.

I rather enjoyed this story with a small exception:
#1) Why is it that almost every author who writes fiction about Egypt HAS to imply (or outright state) that the Egyptians had to be aliens?? WHHYY??

So that was what lay beneath the surface.

Creation.

Humans were not the first to try and terraform Mars.

As she pulled herself together and made her way back to the cavern, she listened to the alien whispers, a crude translation from her bots. A species accustomed to a dry climate, dwellers of pyramids and builders of obelisks, along the banks of ever-flowing rivers. She listened to fragments of reports, of accounts of events she didn’t fully understand, of some undetermined malfunction or disaster that collapsed the surface and buried the device underground. There it lay for countless empty centuries, still struggling to change the surface, still true to its builders’ programming to change the dead soil to something more.
In the stretch of eons it had also changed itself.
Ouroboros

All in all, I enjoyed Ouroboros.

 
 

Cathedral by Jack McDevitt – 3.5 stars
I both liked and disliked Cathedral. Cathedral is very accessible – it takes place in a time that could conceivably be right around the corner. Cathedral also hits home in a very personal way for me – it discusses something that has happened pretty recently: the defunding of NASA.

The characters in Cathedral are astronauts who are being forces to live the end of their dreams: NASA’s funding has been cut, the “state of the art” space station/landing port will be left to drift and decay. The characters who are left on the station are in the process of shutting it down and waiting for their ride home to show.

But the decision to shut down the L2 had gotten to her. “I’ve given most of my adult life to NASA,” she’d told him when the announcement had come in. “I’m done. I’m tired of politicians who can find money to throw into one war after another, but can’t fix the highways or hire teachers. And certainly can’t get themselves together for something that requires a little bit of imagination.”
Cathedral

While I found the story itself captivating, I was disappointed that the story is told from the POV of the male character instead of the female character. This is the second story in this anthology that does this (also Dagger and Mask) and I don’t feel it works in relation to the stated goal of this anthology.
somestars-nasa-1

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