Book Review: WORLDS LONG LOST (2022)
Baen's lost space civilizations science fiction collection, complete with stories from Orson Scott Card and Christopher Ruocchio...
Sean C.W. Korsgaard, whom I know from the Internet’s premiere alternate history forum and have met IRL a few times, co-edited a new Baen Books anthology Worlds Long Lost alongside Christopher Ruocchio, creator of the awesome Sun-Eater far-future science fiction series. The theme? Lost interstellar civilizations. Sean gave me a free e-copy in exchange for an honest review, so here we go…
The collection begins with a rumination from co-editor Ruocchio on lost civilizations like the mythical Atlantis he loved to read about as a child. However, as technology advances, more and more of the Earth is mapped and the dark places where lost civilizations (or currently-existing ones unknown to science) are filled in. Consequently, if we want to find ruins of long-dead cities, odds are we’ll be finding them elsewhere.
(Take the concept of any aliens we’re likely to encounter being “Apes or Angels” or “Gods or Cavemen.” A civilization that is even a thousand years older than our own would be ludicrously more advanced…or it might have gone extinct.)
So buckle up and let’s tell some tales of lost cities on other planets and just what might be lurking there…
*There are some really good stories in this collection. I particularly enjoyed Gray Rinehart’s archaeologist story “The Building Will Continue” and Brian Trent’s stranded-spaceman tale “Howlers in the Void.” Jessica Cain’s epistolary “re: Something Strange” takes a college breakup in some very weird directions. Les Johnson’s “Mere Passers By” is a very subtle cosmic horror that doesn’t resort to tentacled monsters or people losing their minds, but just points out certain implications. Erica Ciko’s “Never Ending, Ever Growing” is very vivid.
*Baen managed to snag none other than Orson Scott Card for this collection, which is pretty impressive. His “Giving Up The Piano” marries stargates and teen angst.
*Even stories that aren’t straight-up great sow interesting seeds. Griffin Barbe’s “Retrospective” takes place during an interstellar war and I would love to see more fiction set in that universe, Elder Aliens or not.
*If you’re interested in atypical settings, Adam Oyebanji’s “The Wrong Shape to Fly” and Jonathan Edelstein’s “Dark Eternity” give me some Afrofuturist vibes.
*Some stories don’t really stand on their own. “Rise of the Administrator” by M.A. Rothman and D.J. Butler, for example, has some interesting ideas, but it’s basically a glorified prologue for their upcoming novel Time Trials. Given how it sets up the protagonist and his upcoming adventure, it might well be the prologue.
*I could see the big twist coming quite a ways off in “The Wrong Shape To Fly,” unfortunately.
*Even the good stories aren’t perfect. “re: Something Strange” includes a single email that goes on for way too long.
*“Dark Eternity” uses so much non-human vocabulary (that’s not italicized to boot) that it’s somewhat difficult to read.
Definitely worth a read. 8.5 out of 10.