Book Review: The Forward Collection curated by Blake Crouch


The Forward Collection curated by Blake Crouch

Today's book review post is a little different. Rather than reviewing one book, or even a double review as I've done a couple of times in the past, this review covers a whole collection of works. 

Forward is a series of six original science fiction stories from Amazon. Amazon calls them "short reads" and they would traditionally be considered short stories or novelettes. They are available individually from Amazon, and in the US are priced at $1.99 each. Amazon Prime members will find these works available for free in their Prime Reading accounts, and can download them to their Kindles or listen to them on Audible at no charge.

While they may be short reads, these six stories are written by some of the best authors writing today. Not only that, but the Audible books are voiced by well known actors from such sci fi staples as Stranger Things, Star Trek: Discovery, The Expanse and more. So, if you are a science fiction fan these stories are well worth your time. And if you are already an Amazon Prime member, the price can't be beat.

Blake Crouch, whose Dark Matters I reviewed last year, wrote the longest of the six stories, and is credited with gathering these writers and challenging them to write stories around the general theme of technological change - how new discoveries change the world for good or ill.

I read and reviewed Crouch's story as a standalone review in January. Recently I read the remaining five stories back to back and really enjoyed doing it that way. It was like picking up a copy of Amazing Stories from the 1970s or 80s.

Below are summary reviews of all six Forward stories. Links to the Amazon stories are embedded in the titles, and links to the author's web presence are embedded in their names.

Four Stars ⭐⭐

A touching story as Earth's destruction by an approaching asteroid draws near. Roth includes lots of quiet drama in this short story. The young scientist at the heart of the story plans to give up her spot on the Ark leaving Earth, but her growing friendship with an older botanist makes her question her choice.

Three Stars ⭐⭐

I thought the character development here was really good. I empathized with the main character Riley, and her workaholic obsession with her AI creation Max, as well as her troubles in her relationships with her boss, and her wife and child. But I found the story of the evolution of Max to be spotty and problematic - the "evil robot" trope was just too formulaic for me. 

Four Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Jemisin's story is told with humor but raises some serious issues. As climate change poses more serious concerns for all of us with each passing year, will we find solutions for our planet and ourselves, and what will it take for us to do so? In this story, an explorer from a human settlement that fled Earth's decay and collapse returns to find that things are not what he had been told to expect. 

Three Stars ⭐

In a cutting edge fertility clinic Sam comes face to face with questions about how he's lived his life - the choices he's made and the relationships he's formed. Will Sam make the right choice for he and his wife's future child? In the midst of his struggle with these questions, revelations about the fertility clinic itself lead to an unexpected conclusion.

Five Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

My favorite of the six stories, The Last Conversation is told from the second person "you" perspective. While it's hard to pull that off, Tremblay uses it to very good effect. There's much you don't know about yourself in this story, and much we as readers don't know either, which leaves us guessing until the very end.

Three Stars ⭐⭐⭐

Gambling in Las Vegas faces a challenge as the introduction of mass produced quantum computers puts the random number generation behind many of their games at risk for compromise. One casino's IT guru thinks he has the answer, but the cat and mouse game between the House and the Scammers isn't over yet. A cleverly written story leavened with a bit of humor.