Cosmic Tales: Adventures in Sol System, edited by T.K.F. Weisskopf (Baen, 2004)

One common grievance among science fiction fans is that real life has failed to catch up to our expectations of the future. More specifically comes the disappointment that we remain tied down to the Earth, instead of reaching to the stars and colonizing the Moon and traveling to other planets. In response to this desire, and in celebration of the potential the future holds, comes this anthology. Eleven authors offer up their views of a future where we’ve continued to follow our ambitions and travel beyond the confines of one planet. In several cases, they also offer non-fiction essays to expand and explain their viewpoints.
Thus we get stories like “Earth’s First Improved Chimp Gets Job As Janitor,” by John Ringo. While the title may sound rather whimsical, the story itself is quite serious, looking at a future where genetic engineering has created a faster, stronger, tougher teenager, one who suffers from discrimination and fear. When he strikes up a friendship with a philosophical, genetically-modified chimpanzee who serves as his school’s janitor, their lives are both changed, especially after big trouble hits.
Monkeys on the brain? Apparently so, since Wen Spencer gives us “Moon Monkeys,” in which a growing number of monkeys sent to the Moon suffer from a series of unfortunate events, most of them fatal. Who ever thought there would have been so many ways to get killed in the Moon’s first colony? Rest assured, there’s a reason to send monkeys to the Moon, and it’s not what you might expect at first.
Getting away from primates in space, Margaret Ball’s “Communications Problem” deals with the issue of how different groups will get along in the future. In the asteroid belt, there’s room for all sorts of minority and special interest groups to claim a place to call their own, but they still have to cooperate. Elaine works for ComCentral, trying to juggle the personality conflicts and needs for dozens of asteroid communities, and she knows just what she’s doing, so why is she letting one tiny group get to her? This is a personality-driven, quirky story along the same lines as Connie Willis’ work, and it’s a great deal of fun.
Allen Steele reveals that even in the future, some things will never change, as he regales us with the story of a high-tech casino heist on the Moon, in “High Rollers.” It has everything needed: cunning, adventure, robots, explosions, a mob boss, and a deadly secret.
In “Time In Purgatory,” Rebecca Lickiss also takes us to the Asteroid Belt, though her version is a lot wilder, an untamed frontier highly reminiscent of the Wild West. When Hell Week hits on Purgatory, the local sheriff finds her workload overflowing with action and mystery, and it’ll take all of her resourcefulness to set things right. As usual, Lickiss delivers a great tale with some memorable characters and a fast-paced plot.
Other authors include James P. Hogan, Jack McDevitt, Travis S. Taylor, Paul Chafe, and Gregory Benford. For those who like good old-fashioned science fiction adventure, this anthology has a lot to offer.

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