A cyborg soldier encounters a peaceful village in peril in a post-apocalyptic landscape.
There are some interesting ideas in this story – the enhanced “singers” as a weapon, the robot war, the Central Command seeking to gather the remnant populations into domed cities – that I would like to see expanded into a longer work. While it hews close to the tropes of post-apocalyptic-cum-Western, its characters are fleshed out and the protagonist’s internal turmoil raises the story above the mundane.
A man who works for a company that produces artificial food goes to a festival in his home town where a saint’s statue miraculously generates vast quantities of natural food.
This story plays with the meaning of a “miracle”: the food that Marty’s company produces is miraculous in its quantity, safety, and price; the food that the saint produces is miraculous in both its sudden bursting into reality and its sensuality compared to the artificial food. Its developing-country setting, where famine and unsafe food are recent memories for people who suddenly have access to cheap and abundant artificial food, makes the story particularly poignant – what are the true costs of feeding everyone? What are the true costs of not feeding everyone?
A dying woman is cared for by AI nurses, who are programmed for compassion but not too much.
This is a short, sad story about the limits of technology: Merlie’s Nurses™ are very kind and efficient, and are certainly offering the best care, but both Merlie and the Nurses™ know that there’s a deep chasm that even the best AI cannot bridge. “There are no algorithms for sadness, anyway.”
Forty years after an apparent alien invasion has converted the Earth into a factory for space ships and humans into drones for building them, a man who avoided the initial invasion meets the person he was with when the invasion began.
This feels a bit like “Tunguska, 1987” from the same collection: the alien invasion can be interpreted as either enslavement or liberation, the people affected as either possessed or refined by the experience.
A young man loses his leg in a car accident, and is pressed into a campaign to encourage “regenerative surgery” for an increasingly elderly population despite his misgivings.
This has some interesting echoes with “The Giaconda of the Twilight Noon” -the turtle-devouring gulls on the beach before the accident, and reappearing at the end of the story, feel like the ominous gulls in “Giaconda” – and also some resonances with “Crash,” though without the lurid sexualization. Its suggestions of a geriatric future that has been overcome with malaise and melancholy also feels like P.D. James’ “The Children of Men” (the book, not the movie), though not explicitly explored. There’s also a hint of body horror – not quite to Cronenbergian levels, but palpable and certainly interesting. The regenerative surgery in the story is still just out of reach – I’m not aware of any successful limb transplants as described in the story – but it’s certainly on the edge of possibility, which seems to be Ballard’s preferred milieu.
Two workers on a deep sea mining rig face themselves and something that has followed them from another world.
This story has a good balance of brooding dread and high adventure, and an intriguing industrial science fiction setting. It paints its world in the broadest strokes, but the characters are well-defined and interesting.
Eighty years after mysterious and powerful Metallics take control of humanity’s destiny with a mix of benevolence and tyranny, a teen is selected to become part of a world-shaping project.
This felt like Asimov’s “The End of Eternity” from the perspective of the non-Eternals, aware that they are being manipulated to some greater good without the hope of participating in the final goal of the project.
A mother dog sets out on a perilous journey to save the runt of her litter.
This is an interesting post-apocalyptic story as seen from the perspective of dogs who have taken some evolutionary steps but are still recognizable canine.
An interplanetary smuggler reviews rest stops and evades the Undying Priesthood.
This is a quick, fun story framed as a series of blog posts about various rest stops before becoming the story of a doomed smuggling run that ends with the narrator as the de-facto parent of an unexpectedly hatched bird-dragon on the lam from the authorities. There’s just enough suggestion of the larger universe in which the story is set to make it fun, and the narrator’s voice is a kick.
While his wife is on a mission to Mars, an astronomer is assigned an android replica of her, which develops its own ambitions when both are making world-changing discoveries.
This story starts from an intriguing premise, and presents the consequences of what seems like a compromise with time and distance in an interesting and sometimes playful way.