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Futureshocks    edited by Lou Anders order for
by Lou Anders
Order:  USA  Can
Roc, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

H. P. Lovecraft, one of the great writers of supernatural horror, said that the 'oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.' The collected stories in Futureshocks probably won't allay anyone's fears about the unknown, but they do, at least, try to anticipate it. Sixteen stories written by acknowledged masters and new practitioners of science fiction look ahead, as noted by the editor Lou Anders, to 'the dangers lying in wait for us on the road ahead, or lurking just around the corner of history'; experienced readers of SF, of course, already know that there 'may be no cure for the future,' but through reading speculative SF—imaginative examinations of 'fears arising out of sociological, biological, or technological change' - were are able to engage in vicarious journeys into a future that may be 'terrifying, even amusing, or simply ... shocking!'

Kevin J. Anderson's 'Job Qualifications' shows just how far a politician will go in the future to convince voters that he understands their hopes and dreams by using cutting-edge technology as a way of tapping into the experiences and mindsets of other people: prisoner, waiter, medical school student, missionary, and bureaucrat. In 'Shuteye for the Timebroker' by Paul Di Filippo, 'humanity is finally freed from the tyranny of the clock' through pharmaceutical advances, but a rebellious Cedric Swann runs afoul of authorities and is forced to reinvent himself and suffer as a very different kind of individual. 'The Pearl Diver,' an enigmatic tale by Caitlín R. Kiernan, invites us to ponder the problem of how one of the last freeborn people in the United States is able to retain her aesthetic sensibility and spirituality in an increasingly oppressive technological society.

Alan Dean Foster's 'The Man Who Knew Too Much' features Charlie Fellows, an admitted knowledge addict who relies upon black-market technology to feed his habit while he ignores the Surgeon General's warnings that acquiring too much knowledge can be hazardous to one's health. 'All's Well at World's End' by Howard V. Hendrix introduces readers to 'a rather apocalyptically religious person' with access to nuclear weapons who employs a radical strategy in his attempt to restore a healthy balance to a fragile earth. Mike Resnick and Harry Turtledove, authors of 'Before the Beginning,' present a provocative scenario in which researchers have found a way through technology, of course, to turn back the hands of time and view history in 'real time'; however, when they go back (perhaps) too far, they are perplexed to find that (the apparent existence of) an ineffable divine power obviates all future rationalism and objectivity. And Robert J. Sawyer's 'Flashes' portrays a rapidly deteriorating situation on Earth whereon flashing lights - coming from a source 36 light years away - suggest that everyone may be witnessing the beginning of the end.

Other SF tales by Robert A. Metzger, Paul Melko, Louise Marley, Chris Roberson, Alex Irvine, Adam Roberts, Sean McMullen, and John Meaney round out this highly recommended anthology. Even though, as Howard V. Hendrix says, 'There is no cure for the future,' we might as well entertain (and challenge) ourselves with these authors' speculative inquiries that attempt to answer the troublesome question: 'What terror does tomorrow hold?'

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