Futures (2001)

An anthology that collects longer novellas has always the problem that there’s isn’t much room for bad stories. Luckily at least two of the four stories in “Futures” are excellent stuff. Let’s begin with the best story of the lot, Hamilton’s “Watching Trees Grow” begins in an alternate past where the gladiators in old Rome have been bred for longevity. When one of them is murdered at the dawn of industrialization, the hunt for the murder takes ages. Literally.

Ian McDonald’s story is part of his Chaga sequence, where alien nanotechnology transforms Earth into a strange, new world. But the old powers that be fear that their power will be diminished and try to fight the Chaga. But the poorest people in the world don’t have much power to lose and they are the first to live together with Chaga and embrace it.

The Baxter story is part of his Xeelee universe, has interesting ideas and characters, and is a good read.

McAuley’s story is also part of a universe, the background is that of the world after the Quiet War, where Earth has bested the colonies in Sol space for control and won. My problem with McAuley’s fiction is that for me his characters lack life, I never care what happens to them. Also, the setting lacks originality, it’s too old-school for my taste. All in all an excellent anthology for fans of SF, with only one middle-rate story.