The Quantum Soul: A Sci Fi Roundtable Anthology ed. Eric M. Craig and Ducky Smith – 7.5/10

From the pens, keyboards and various writing implements of the Knights of the Sci Fi Roundtable comes this immersive and exciting anthology which asks the one of the oldest questions in science fiction – what makes something alive? Two centuries since Mary Shelley first explored this theme in Frankenstein, sixteen authors take the question across time, space and the very dimensions, and come up with many different answers.

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With a wide range of authors from across the globe, The Quantum Soul really does provide something for everyone – from the quantum-mechanical “Wondrous Strange” (E. M. Swift-Hook) to the near-future whodunnit “The Endymion Device” (Lyra Shanti), to the enjoyably satirical “When Words Are Not Enough” (Cindy Tomamichel), in which writers are forced to produce stories for the passengers of an interstellar voyage, being fed according to their reviews under the all-seeing eye of “the Zon”. Really, I have no idea where these ideas come from…

With so many authors to cover, it is difficult to go into much detail (and to go into too much would be to ruin some fine surprises), but needless to say this is a fun, exciting and thought-provoking read that showcases some of the best indie talent out there. Highly recommended to science-fiction fans of all stripes.

Some highlights:

The Trees of Trappist – Brent Harris

A fun and evocative adventure of colonists coming to terms with the beings they share the planet with. Plenty of excitement and imagination.

Second Contact – Leo McBride

A neat Star-Trek-inspired tale with a grounding in linguistics that tickled the cockles of my academic heart. Finally, recognition for the humanities!

Project Chameleon – Jeanetter O’Hagan

A highly enjoyable cyborg sci-fi which skilfully blends alternate timelines, class warfare and political intrigue. I live in hope of a sequel.

Patient Data – Claire Buss

This time, a near-future what-if story about the introduction of medical drones into the health service, with a healthy dose of wry cynicism.

Aether Technician – Jim Webster

This meditation on humanity and the lengths a civilisation will go to for the sake of “progress” manages to blend the excitement of the pioneer spirit with the sombre reality of the consequences for humanity and those it uses to forge its path through the stars.

What Measure is a Homunculus? – Ricardo Victoria

Here Ricardo brings his distinctive imagination to bear on the themes of slavery and sentience. His take on debate-by-combat is fresh and believable, while the wider consequences of decisions made provide satisfying depth to the story. Also credit for a twist ending that made me stare at the wall and declare him a clever bugger.

Shepherd of Memory – Rob Edwards

Another exploration story with shades of Star Trek and Doctor Who, and which brought out the same sense of childlike wonder in me. An excellent way to round off the anthology.

The Quantum Soul is a fantastic showcase of the talent in the SFF indie scene, and is well worth the time of any fan of speculative fiction.