Microcosms, edited by Gregory Benford (DAW, 2004)

In this anthology, noted author Gregory Benford collects a baker’s dozen of stories that all explore the concept of limited spaces, or microcosms. As usual, the stories range the spectrum from good to excellent as the authors take the concept and run with it. Jack McDevitt gives us a really strong story in “Act of God,” where a group of scientists have figured out how to create a miniature universe, one they can actually watch and affect. But what consequences will playing God have for their creation, and for them? What unforseen factor could ruin their entire experiment?
Robert Sawyer’s “Kata Bindu” is just as strong, the story of an African tribe relocated to the Moon to live in isolation, the only human beings not to participate in the great evolution of collection consciousness. Could these hold-backs provide the key to the true evolution of the species? Meanwhile, in “Ouroborous,” Geoffrey Landis looks at life as nothing more than a complex simulation, then exploring the idea of how far such a simulation can go. Could it, perhaps, create a simulation of its own, and so forth, multiple realities dwindling into an artificial infinity? Mike Resnick and Dean Wesley Smith take the concept of a microcosm to an interesting extreme in “A Moment of Your Time,” in which humanity solves the problem of overcrowding by sponsoring relocation efforts, sending groups of people into the past, where they spend decades trapped in a single unchanging moment in time. But what significance does 12:36, August 10, 2002 have for one group of temporal squatters?
This is just a sampling of what awaits in Microcosms, with stories by Stephen Baxter, Pamela Sargent, Paul Levinson, Robert Sheckley and more rounding out the collection. It’s a first-rate effort, though some stories didn’t grab me as much as others.

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