Reviewer: Katherine Ray


Published: 2010

Reviewed: 2011-09-26

Publisher: Tor

This book was first released as an audiobook, probably in 2009. If I
had not read that information in the introduction, however, I would
not have known, and would not have been able to tell. There was no
particular flag that would mark it as "made to be listened to" in the

The five stories in the book are all set in the same world---one where
super-expensive fuel turns suburbs into ghost towns and new
zero-footprint cities are founded in the wreckage. Lake's "In the
Forests of the Night," starring a man named Tygre Tygre, is very
literary in style. By literary I mean the character motives remain
hidden, and in the end you feel like there has just been a gigantic
load of symbolism that makes the story either very deep or just very
vague. He brings up the concept of being able to load all the
information necessary to start a city into an object the size of a
fist, which made me wonder the size of the reader for that densely
packed information.

Buckell's "Stochasti-city" is more straight forward, as is Bear's "The
Red in the Sky is our Blood," both of which are set in Detroit at the
time of Detroit's rebirth as a zero-footprint city. If I were to
compare the two stories, I would say Buckell's has a Hollywood-esque
story arc, while Bear's is more like a French movie's snapshot of
life. (Take "Men in Black" as an example Hollywood movie and "Argent
de Poche" as an example French movie if my lack of serious film study
has made my analogy unclear). Buckell's protagonist hits a low, meets
new people, takes on a task, surmounts it, and rides off into the
sunset to find a girl. Bear's protagonist rides her bicycle around
town and visits people while you learn about just how she got to where
she is now, where she's going to go next, and meet some interesting

Scalzi's "Utere Nihil Non Extra Quiritationem Suis" is a fairly
straight forward comedy about a young man adjusting to life in his new
job. It includes some lovely fart jokes, and spoke to the same "now
what do I do???" feeling that finds such lovely musical expression in
"Avenue Q."

Schroeder's "To Hie from Far Cilenia" takes virtual reality goggles,
live-action role play, massive in-game economies, and the ability of
the internet to connect people all over the globe, and mixes those
elements to depict a strange sort of "city" with a tale of missing
plutonium mixed in.

The world has some interesting ideas about distributed
vs. hierarchical systems. One, that you could break a complex task
into many smaller jobs, such as moving a package 6 blocks, and have
none of the workers know what you're really doing. Two, that
nanotechnology leads to the end of capital which spells the end of
hierarchy. Three, that you can make a skyscraper farm. Four, a zero
percent unemployment state. Five, a return to reliance on individual
as opposed to company reputation. All in all, the world is fun to
think about and the story styles are nicely varied.