Review: Carbide Tipped Pens: Seventeen Tales of Hard Science Fiction

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About Carbide Tipped Pens

Seventeen hard science fiction tales by today’s top authors Hard science fiction is the literature of change, rigorously examining the impact—both beneficial and dangerous—of science and technology on humanity, the future, and the cosmos. As science advances, expanding our knowledge of the universe, astounding new frontiers in storytelling open up as well.

In Carbide Tipped Pens, over a dozen of today’s most creative imaginations explore these frontiers, carrying on the grand tradition of such legendary masters as Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and John W. Campbell, while bringing hard science fiction into the 21st century by extrapolating from the latest scientific developments and discoveries. Ranging from ancient China to the outer reaches of the solar system, this outstanding collection of original stories, written by an international roster of authors, finds wonder, terror, and gripping human drama in topics as diverse as space exploration, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, climate change, alternate history, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, interplanetary war, and even the future of baseball.

From tattoos that treat allergies to hazardous missions to Mars and beyond, from the end of the world to the farthest limits of human invention, Carbide Tipped Pens turns startling new ideas into state-of-the art science fiction.

Includes stories by Ben Bova, Gregory Benford, Robert Reed, Aliette de Bodard, Jack McDevitt, Howard Hendrix, Daniel H. Wilson, and many others!


About the Editors

Ben Bova is a six-time winner of the Hugo Award, a former editor of Analog, and former editorial director of Omni. Bova is the author of more than a hundred works of science fact and fiction, most recently, Transhuman, New Earth, and New Frontiers. He lives in Florida.

Eric Choi is an aerospace engineer as well as an award-winning author and editor. He has worked on a number of space missions, including the Phoenix Mars Lander and the Canadarm2 on the International Space Station. Choi also co-edited the anthology The Dragon and the Stars with Derwin Mak.


My Thoughts

[I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher via NetGalley.]

Editors Ben Bova and Eric Choi have collected seventeen short stories from authors across the globe, where the primary focus is on technology. These are stories of hard science fiction, where the scientific concepts provide not only a framework for the plot, but are so integral to the story being told that without such a tech-heavy conceit the story would be impossible to tell.

The anthology opens with The Blue Afternoon That Lasted Forever by Daniel H. Wilson (Robopocalypse). Here, we are introduced to a theoretical physicist who is so coldly rational and unemotional that he's very nearly a robot. If it weren't for his daughter, he'd likely have no humanity to him whatsoever, and she is what pins him to this earth. Far too late, he learns that his theoretical equations showing the existence of pinhole black holes are deadly accurate. While the physicist is cool and methodical, Wilson manages to wring the heartstrings for all their worth in an emotional wallop of a finale. Although the story itself is short, there's a lot going on here, and serves as a terrific opener to Carbide Tipped Pens.

I was also deeply impressed by Doug Beason's Thunderwell, which concerns a last-ditch effort to save an otherwise doomed mission to land the first team of human explorers on Mars. We get snippets of action from these intrepid astronauts, but the focus is on the Earth-based scientists' efforts to beat the odds and launch a care-package stocked rocket into space. There's a smidge of inspiration from Jules Verne at hand here, and it works very well. The technology at play here is also one we are deeply familiar with, using the physics of projectiles as the main thrust (forgive the pun) behind the narrative.

Liu Cixin delivers The Circle, a story adapted and expanded upon from his novel, The Three Body Problem. Ben Bova's contribution, Old Timer's Game, tells a straight-forward story about the future of baseball, as the sport is heavily impacted by medical advances and stem cell research. Habilis, by Howard Hendrix, is an interesting, dialogue-driven meditation on the 'handedness' of the universe, with insights in the left-favoring nature of electron orbits to the curves of letters and numbers driven home by a war vet with a prosthetic hand. David DeGraff's SIREN of Titan was another strong inclusion, focusing on the sudden sentience of a moon rover and some intriguing American politics generated by the Religious Right's fear of artificial intelligence.

I tend to find anthologies to be a mixed bag. Not every story can satisfy every single reader. For instance, I found Jack McDevitt's story, The Play's The Thing, to be interesting yet anticlimactic, and neither Aliette de Bodard's nor Kate Storey's efforts did much for me despite being well-written and having authentic feeling settings thanks to the strong world building in each of their works.

Taken as a whole, however, Carbide Tipped Pens is a solid collection of hard science fiction stories from many highly regarded authors in this genre and well worth the read. The stories themselves cover a broad swath of territory, from near-future Earth to far-flung empires of the distant future, where technology and scientific concepts are key. Recommended.

Buy Carbide Tipped Pens At Amazon

Michael Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.


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