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Escape Pod: The Science Fiction Anthology

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Member Reviews

This was a book full of really enjoyable short sci-fi stories. I enjoyed all the stories but some were better than others. I've been introduced to some new authors as well which is always a good thing! It really is a book full of fantastic authors and I'd really recommend. Some stories wer fun and silly, some had some heavy sci-fi themes and others covered issues from the real world. I'm going to share a short review for each one. 

Citizens of Elsewhen
This was a weird time travel story about midwifery. Writing style was a little confusing, I did understand what was going on by the end and I did like it but didn't get the point.

Report of Dr. Hollowmas on the Incident at Jackrabbit Five
This was an entertaining read and rather amusing in bits! It's another midwife tale but with 2 women and a goat giving birth at the same time and causing havoc. The story was told to a police witness robot which added a good element and some tech!

A Princess of Nigh-Space 
This was a really enjoyable story with an interesting multi verse concept. It has different worlds, murder and a woman finding out she is a princess of another world. It was interesting and open ended enough that it would make a good full length story.

An Advanced Reader's Picture Book of Comparative Cognition
This was a very profound and emotional story but I had no clue what I was reading for the most part.Its explores memory and how ambition can have an impact on family. This was a pretty sad one but well written.

Tiger Lawyer Gets It Right
This story was ridiculous but an enjoyable quick read. Its about a lawyer losing a court case so he gets a mod to turn him into a tiger. But its also about standing up for people and yourself, although maybe its a unethical way to go about it!

Fourth Nail
I enjoyed this story a lot, it was well written and interesting. I liked the concept of the clones and how they could be grown from code as many times as you want. It does end pretty ubruptly and I wanted more! 

Alien Animal Encounters
You know those people who go around the streets asking people questions for the news or a TV show? Well this is that but the question is: What is the most interesting encounter you've ever had with an alien species? It was witty and well structured if a little ridiculous. 

A Consideration of Trees
This was a nice mix of sci fi and fantasy that was enjoyable to read.  I liked that we got a good amount of backstory for the character. Its about a forest and creatures on a space station that were taken from earth. A quick and quite sweet read with nods to folklore.

City of Refuge
I wouldn't say this was much of a sci fi apart from the mentions of unclean air and colonizing other planets. It's a world very similar to ours and very topical considering events from this year. This story is about control whether that's an officer of the law abusing power or drugs. 

Jaiden's Weaver
Very cute and hopeful story about a girl who really wants a specific pet. The world building in this was really good for such a short story! It really shows you can do anything you put your mind to. I really loved this story, it gives you all the feels!

The Machine That Would Rewild Humanity
This was a really interesting story that really makes you think about the relationship between humans and machines! Humans are extinct and the world is run by machines. So do they bring back humans or leave them extinct? This was really well written and asks a fascinating question.

Clockwork Fagin
This was an interesting steampunk story. It's an interesting take on Oliver Twist but with way more tech! It was a story about hope when it seems unlikely although it was a violent and grotesque way to change your luck.

Spaceship October
This was a short insight on how classism and unfairness is always going to exist, even in a spaceship. This story really shows people can still suffer from choices made by people in the past.

Lions and Tigers and Girlfriends 
This was a really fun story about teenager trying to create a play in a spaceship.It really is a story of how important art is and how it can bring people together. There is also a bit of romance. It's just a really quirky story.

Give me Cornbread or Give me Death 
This is a very interesting take on oppression by people in power. It shows that racism is a huge problem even when authorities pretend it's not. This one has dragons being used for raids and it was really cool!  It does show the resilience of oppressed people and hope that they can win by doing something. Very good story, topical and a good mix of sci fi and fantasy.
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Celebrating fifteen years of original podcast science-fiction, Escape Pod offers up an anthology of fifteen stories from some of the most prominent names in the genre.

I've always found short story collections a nice way to sample an author's work and decide if I might want to wade deeper into their works. This collection contains several authors I've read a great deal of what they've written (John Scalzi), some I've wanted to read for a while but haven't quite taken the plunge yet (N.K. Jemison) and some that I'm aware of but haven't picked up something from yet. Overall, it's a pretty good collection with some interesting introductions by editors S.B. Divya and Murr Lafferty.

Being a Scalzi fan, his story stood out, though I think I've read it before. I will admit that Lafferty's entry felt a bit abrupt, almost as if the author had a word or page count and just stopped writing when it was achieved. The other complaint with that story is that it's set within the universe of her Hugo-award nominated novel and I felt like I was missing some of the contexts of the story having not read the novel first. It did make me want to seek out the book and finally get it off the to-be-read pile, so I suppose that's something.

I'm a big fan of podcast fiction and have enjoyed the podcast this collection celebrates. I've read these stories were originally presented as episodes of the podcast and halfway through, I couldn't help but wonder what they might be liked experienced as audio stories. I may have to look around a bit and give that avenue a try.

I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of cutting-edge science fiction from the hit podcast, Escape Pod. Featuring new and classic stories from Cory Doctorow, Ken Liu, Mary Robinette Kowal, Ursula Vernon and more.

 From editors Mur Laffterty and S.B. Divya comes the science fiction collection of the year, bringing together bestselling authors in celebration of the publishing phenomenon that is, Escape Pod.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve read any short fiction so when I discovered an anthology was due to be published celebrating the fifteenth anniversary of the magnificent podcast Escape Pod I decided it was high time to remedy that oversight. This collection features fifteen science fiction tinged visions of our world and beyond and it’s just a bit awesome.

Some random thoughts about each story –

Citizens of Elsewhen by Kameron Hurley – If you’re going to protect history and the progenitors of humanity, then you need to get it right. Even if that means re-doing a mission over and over again. Kameron Hurley doesn’t mess about when it comes to kicking this anthology off. The nature of life, existence and how we shape our future is dissected and laid bare in just a handful of pages. I’m always impressed by the way Hurley’s writing demands your attention.

Report of Dr Hollowmas on the Incident at Jackrabbit Five by T Kingfisher – Space midwives, multiple births and one entirely unexpected patient. I can’t say any more than that. You need to read the story, and all will become clear. I’d imagine you’ll be as surprised as I was.

A Princess of Nigh-Space by Tim Pratt – I’m a firm believer that in every short story collection there are one or two entries that are screaming out to be expanded upon. This is one such case. I always enjoy a bit of multiverse related mayhem. I was left with a profound desire to know what happens next.

An Advanced Reader’s Picture Book of Comparative Cognition by Ken Liu – An exploration of emotion and empathy, joy and sorrow. Tinged with sadness this short tale manages to be both huge in scope but intimate in nature. I re-read this one a few times as it left me with a lot to ponder.

Tiger Lawyer Gets It Right by Sarah Gailey – I shouldn’t be surprised that I adored this story. I’ve always been a cat person after all. It turns out tiger lawyer’s closing arguments tend to be just as compelling as you probably imagined they would be.

Fourth Nail by Mur Lafferty – This is another story that I would love to read more of. I felt like I’d be given the briefest glimpse of something awesome. Clones, orbital space stations, characters being hunted for sport. I need to know what happens next dammit!

Alien Animal Encounters by John Scalzi – A handful of short experiences involving humanities often unsuccessful attempts to understand beings from other worlds. This story solidifies my theory I have often suspected to be true – humans are indeed idiots and should not be left unattended at any point.

A Considerations of Trees by Beth Cato – Something ancient dwells in a forest that has been transplanted to a space station. How does this otherworldliness tie in with missing children and a murdered businessman? A quirky, fantastical detective tale featuring baked goods and a sidekick that I immediately loved.

City of Refuge by Maurice Broaddus – Even as the Earth gasps its last people are still plagued by racist assholes. Broaddus uses his story to shine a light directly on the endemic racism that exists today and will continue to haunt the future unless we tackle it right now.

Jaiden’s Weaver by Mary Robinette Kowal – In a complete one eighty from the previous story this is a sweet tale featuring fartycats, fuzzywyrms and teddybear spiders. I’ll be honest, you had me at fartycats.

The Machine That Would Rewild Humanity by Tobias Buckell – Should humanity be reintroduced into the eco-system of Earth’s far future? I loved the idea of viewing us an extinct species. Are we worthy of a second bit of the cherry? Especially when you take our inherently barbaric behaviour into account. From the perspective of the robots who have replaced us the quick answer is probably not.

Clockwork Fagin by Cory Doctorow – For me, one of the joys of short fiction is where an evocative title can lead you. Even before I started reading Clockwork Fagin, I’m sat thinking that sounds like it should be an album by Steely Dan. For the curious amongst you I can confirm that it’s not. Steampunk Dickensian hijinks ensue when a group of orphans figure out a way to turn the traumas of their lives to their own benefit.

Spaceship October by Greg Van Eekhout – Inequality in the depths of space. On the good ship October those that can afford it spend their time frozen, blissfully ignorant of the passage of time. Meanwhile the less well-off suffer increasingly unpleasant conditions. If you discovered that, and you could do something about it, what would you do?

Lions and Tigers and Girlfriends by Tina Connolly – More than just a story about love and staging a production The Wizard of Oz on a generational ark ship. This is a story about the importance of the arts in society. How it makes us want to strive to do better, to be better.

Give Me Cornbread or Give Me Death by N K Jemisin – As I jot down my thoughts regarding these tales, a petulant racist man-baby throws his toys out the pram yet again for losing an election he thought he could steal. There has been lots of discussion regarding how to deal with this loathsome sort and his ilk. N K Jemisin offers a simple yet elegant solution – dragons. This is the perfect story to end this perfect anthology. Jemisin’s writing never fails to educate, inform and entertain.

The thing that impresses me most about this collection is the level of insight the reader is given into the human condition. I’ve said this in the past, and it still holds true today, I love it when fiction forces me to engage my brain. I can heartily recommend seeking out Escape Pod, there is something here for everyone.

Escape Pod is published by Titan Books and is available now.
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As with all anthologies, not all the stories were too my taste, but overall this was a strong collection of short stories. Escape Pod covered a wide array of sci-fi, with a variety of approaches, and some that were incredibly relevant to the present and to humanity in question. It was also a fantastic opportunity to experience several new authors, and I have a list to check out further works from. Of the stories in this collection, my favourites are Clockwork Fagin - Cory Doctorow and Tiger Lawyer Gets It Right - Sarah Gailey.
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I’m beginning to think I like anthologies. 

I know Mur Lafferty from Six Wakes, her locked room clone murder mystery inspired by one of my favorite video games. So I was excited to see she had co-edited an anthology. I didn’t realize it was based on Escape Pod, her fiction podcast! This is chock full of excellent stores by many of the biggest names in SFF, from John Scalzi to Mary Robinette Kowal. I especially liked Kameron Hurley’s short story about time travelers trying to fix a future they no longer remember. N. K. Jemisin’s story felt more cute than good to me - I think I prefer her works long form when they have a chance to breathe. But that is the beauty of an anthology like this one - if a story isn’t to your taste, another one will be along in a few pages!

Thanks to NetGalley for an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Escape Pod is an anthology of science fiction stories, written to celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of the influential Escape Pod podcast, focused on sci-fi and fantasy.. The contributors include top notch writers, who have produced a lot of scintillating, thought provoking work for this anthology. I’ve been a big fan of some of these folks for years, but some of them were new to me. Fortunately, though the tales ran the gamut from laugh out loud humour to transcendental, to grim looks at the best and worst of humanity, the quality level remained pretty consistent throughout. Though I enjoyed some more than others, I had to appreciate the sheer quality of craft on display throughout this collection. 

The first piece, “Citizens of Elsewhen”, came from Kameron Hurley, whose work I’ve always enjoyed. It’s centred around a team of operatives going through time, bringing their technology and assistance to different times and places, in order to bring about a better future. This is thoughtful, and asks tricky, moral questions, and certainly kept my attention throughout. It’s a little less grim (I think!) than her other work, but it’s still got the uncompromising fire in the prose that keeps you turning pages.


Then there’s another piece featuring midwives, “Report of Dr. Hollowmas on the Incident at Jackrabbit Five”, from T. Kingfisher, who I’d never read anything by before. It’s quirky, it’s funny, it’s acerbic, and it made me laugh out loud at least once. There’s a few surprises, and it’s a lovely contrast to Hurley’s tale. Kingfisher gives her protagonist a real sense of personality and a voice that really comes through as something special, and you really got a sense of character and world from the narration. Great fun. 


Tim Pratt’s “A Princess of Nigh Space” is next, and it’s mostly contemporary, with a splash of strangeness, and a dark iron streak running through the middle of the tale. I won’t spoil it, but I will say that it hits like an iron bar. This is a fairy tale where the fairies have fangs, and a twist like a knife at the end. 


Ken Liu’s “An Advanced Reader’s Picture Book of Comparative Cognition” shows off different types of alien life, and their methods of thought and communication. It’s startlingly inventive, gently lyrical, and it’ll make you think about the way you view the world. 


Sarah Gailey’s “Tiger Lawyer Gets It Right” is next; it’s innovative, bloody, brutal stuff, which slides a message in there under the blood and guts, so quietly that you might not notice until it’s living in your head. It does, just to be clear, feature an actual tiger, and centres on a courtroom drama of corporate malfeasance, which ends rather unexpectedly - and lets you know that there are ways to bring truth to power, but that you might get your hands dirty. 


“Fourth Nail” from Mur Lafferty is a mystery of sorts on a space station circling a ruined earth, populated by the super rich and those who serve them in return for escaping from the hell of the gravity well. It’s smoothly flowing sci fi, with a snappy story that always had me wanting to see what happens next. Though the ending was a little abrupt, it left me wanting more - and I’ll be off to find Lafferty’s other work as a result. It’s a fun story with some interesting social undertones and solid characterisation of people making hard choices in difficult, deeply strange circumstances. 

John Scalzi brings us “Alien Animal Encounters”. This explores various different creatures that humanity has run afoul of, with occasionally unpleasant, but always hilarious results. It’s a comforting read, which made me chuckle whilst admiring the breadth of imagination on display, and I hope it’ll do the same for you. 


Beth Cato’s “A Consideration of Trees” has a murde mystery at its heart, as a xeno-arbitrator attempts to work out how someone has been killed, why, and works that discovery through their own unique lens. The mystery  is rather clever, builds tension nicely, and feels fair to the reader - they’re always one step behind, but the revelations by the narrator always feel within reach. The conclusion is at once unexpected and rather fun. As a blend of science fiction and something else entirely, this is a story you may want to read more than once.


By contrast, Broaddus’ “City of Refuge” feels horrifyingly grounded in the contemporary. It centres on issues of structural racism, and the way society is weighted against those already fallen the furthest. It’s also a meditation on the stories we tell ourselves, what happens when we try to rise up, and the many forms of resistance available to those willing to pay the price. This is affecting, painful stuff, which also has a ring of truth and a raw pain about it. 


Then there’s Mary Robinette Kowal’s story, “Jaiden’s Weaver” about a young girl and her relationship with her very own teddy-bear spider, on a planet at the edge of nowhere. This is actually rather sweet, and the creature itself is vividly painted and its relationship with its human both affecting and believable. 


Tobias Buckell brings in “The Machine that would Rewild Humanity”, about an AI seeding programme to resurrect the human species. It’s a fascinating study of a different perspective, an effort to portray non-human intelligences, and their priorities. That this takes place in a thriving world, whose context includes the demise of humanity, is a bonus.


Cory Doctorow’s “Clockwork Fagin” is, as the title implies, reminiscent of a steampunk version of Oliver Twist, where orphaned children from the computing looms try to better their lot, and succeed perhaps a little too well. This one is a straightforward tale, which cracks along nicely, and has some fun beats. I was smiling all the way through!


Full disclosure, I’d never heard of Greg Van Eekhout before I read the story “Starship October”, but I’ll absolutely be looking out for more of their work. An exploration of power dynamics on a generation ship, whose inequalities are sometimes obvious and sometimes less so, it has powerful things to say about the necessity for change. About the process of that change. And about the fierceness required to see it through. Couldn’t stop turning the pages, and really wanted to see more of the creaking starship and its desperate dreams, even as the story came to a close. More please!


“Lions and Tigers and Girlfriends”, from Tina Connolly, is a delightfully wholesome tale of queer teen romance, on a starship on its way to colonise another world. It, um, also features a space mutiny. And a play. The voice is intelligent, wry and thoroughly teen, and the whole story just made me smile. My heart grew three sizes that day! It’s fairly light, told through diary recordings, and really just great fun.


N.K. Jemisin’s “Give me Cornbread or Give Me Death” is another story of revolution against a cabal of wealth and power. Cornbread does feature, but what kept me turning pages was the anger, the exploration of racism and the reaction against it, and, to be fair, the dragons. It’s a story that wears its heart on its sleeve, and it’s also a damn fine story.


Overall, this is a collection which, not to belabour the point, has something for everyone. There’s humour, pathos, tragedy, full on sci-fi, time travel, dragons, a goat. It’s a set of diverse voices, bringing their best, and providing us with wildly imaginative and utterly delightful stories. It’s totally worth a look - I, for one, found a few authors that were new to me, and now need to go read the rest of their work.This is a marvellous collection, and one I wholeheartedly recommend.
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A very eclectic anthology, not entirely on my taste. All were new to me, except Ken Liu' story, which happens to be the best here, in my pov.
However, for another reader, thiis collection might be a blast.

Here are my thoughts on them:

1. Citizens of Elsewhen, by Kameron Hurley - a time travel story, in which a squad is sent back in time to save women dying from giving birth. Only it doesn't have much logic. Nice writing style and idea, but no so great development. 3/5

2. Report of Dr. Hollowmas on the Incident at Jackrabbit Five, by T. Kingfisher - a vet is having quite an adventure trying to deliver some babies. This kind of humor in sci-fi does not work for me. 2/5

3. A Princess of Nigh-Space, by Tim Pratt - a story set in a multiverse, but childish and unrealistic. 1/5

4. An Advanced Reader's Picture Book of Comparative Cognition, by Ken Liu - I've read it first in his collection, . Exquisite. 5/5

5. Tiger Lawyer Gets It Right, by Sarah Gailey - an allegory of what power means in a court of law. 2/5

6. Fourth Nail, by Mur Lafferty - set in the same universe as Six Wakes, we are told. Sort of The Hunger Games with clones. 3/5

7. Alien Animals Encounters, by John Scalzi - classic Scalzi. The only amusing part for me was the dialogue at the end. 2/5

8. A Consideration of Trees, by Beth Cato - mystery tale with magic elements. Nice worldbuilding, lousy plot. 2/5

9. City of Refuge, by Maurice Broaddus - a story with a twist, featuring a former convinct and his parole officer. 1/5

10. Jaiden's Weaver, by Mary Robinette Kowal - sweet and lovely, about a girl and her unusual alien pet. 4/5

11. The Machine That Would Rewild Humanity, by Tobias Buckell - disturbing post apocalyptic story, where Earth is run by machines. 4/5

12. Clockwork Fagin, by Cory Doctorow - abandoned; too violent for me. 1/5

13. Spaceship October, by Greg van Eekhout - two children aboard a generationship discover something that enrage them. 4/5

14. Lions and Tigers and Girlfriends, by Tina Connolly - a story on how art and kindness bring people together. 2/5

15. Give Me Cornbread or Give Me Death, by N.K. Jemisin - more fantasy than sci-fi, a tale with dragons trained to persecute dark-skinned people. 2/5
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First thing I have to say: what a GREAT time I had reading this anthology! And how rare to love - or at least like - all of the stories in a collection! It was a roller-coaster of scenes, emotions, characters. I laughed, I was close to tears, I felt injustice, joy, sadness, excitement! All of the stories are well-written, I was allergic to no writing-style, and I got gripped by every single story! I'll got through them in details, without spoilers!

There is a foreword at the beginning of the collection explaining what is Escape Pod; I didn't know it so it was great to have this introduction! But maybe I shouldn't have read the opinions of the author about each story, because, even if it doesn't really spoil them, it does give their theme, and just that in itself is a bit spoilery sometimes. 

Last remark before I start: all these stories made me think and reflect on the future and on the human race in general. Could I really ask for more?

- "Citizens of Elsewhen", Kameron Hurley
I was surprised to love this story because I already knew the subject it dealt with and it's not something I'm attracted to! I loved the all concept of Elsewhen, the comparison between birth and war, the awe of it, and the reflection of the main character at the end. 
I already knew Kameron Hurley but hadn't read anything from her yet! 

- "Report of Dr. Hollowmas on the Incident at JackRabbit Five", T. Kingfisher
Another story dealing with the same subject, but this one was funny, both thanks to the format and the narrator! She is Dr. Hollowmas, a doctor living in a colony where they control births. And something went kind of wrong? Not in tragic way, rather in a funny way, as someone interrupted labour! I won't say more, but I laughed and really liked the whole feel of this story!

- "A Princess of Nigh-Space", Tim Pratt
This story was the first that left me frustrated and wanting more! It felt like the author ended it right when a novel would have "properly" started! If a novel follows this story, I WANT IT! And if there isn't... I WANT IT anyway! 
We follow a young woman who gets a strange call and, just after that, learns that her grand-mother just died. I won't say more, but I liked everything and wanted it to go on! 

- "An Advanced Reader's Picture Book of Comparative Cognition", Ken Liu
What a discovery! 
I instantly loved the writing-style! Poetic, just so beautiful it made me want to read more and more of it. As to the story, at first, I had a hard time understanding; when it dawned on me, I was really moved! How impressive to move your reader in a few words like this! 

- "Tiger Lawyer Gets It Right", Sarah Gailey
This was good weird to me - as the title of the story might already suggest! I even really really loved an aspect of it in the end! It made me want to read more from this author! 

- "Fourth Nail", Mur Lafferty
I'm wondering if this story doesn't spoil Six Wakes as it takes place in the same universe with some characters from the novel. Either way, this is one of the I'm-frustrated-gosh-I-want-the-sequel story! We follow Regina who, during her nightshift, receives a strange message and asks her superior what to do about it. I can't say more, but I was gripped at some point and I really REALLY want to know more! 

- "Alien Animal Encounters", John Scalzi 
I know John Scalzi for his novels but never read him before! 
Here is a funny short story in the form of little interviews. People must answer one question: what was their strangest encounter with alien animals? That was really fun! 

- "A Consideration of Trees", Beth Cato 
One of my favorite stories from this collection, "A Consideration of Trees" deals with humans and their way of treating nature and its inhabitants. It was lucid, true, a beautiful mix of SF and Fantasy, and I want more! 

- "City of Refuge", Maurice Broaddus
This story was more despairing than satisfying. We follow Royal, a Black man, who has to deal with his PO, Ford. Won't say more, but I felt anger reading this story and couldn't understand how we still live in a world like this, how the future could still be this way. Depressing, even if the ending might be less so. 

- "Jaiden's Weaver", Mary Robinette Kowal 
Competing for my favorite story of this collection with "A Consideration of Trees"!
"Jaiden's Weaver" was moving and hit a raw nerve: I could feel Jaiden's feelings, I could perfectly understand her, and... well, as I read, I grew less and less afraid of spiders! (until I meet one again, of course!) It was just beautiful, uplifting and true!

- "The Machine that Would Rewild Humanity", Tobias Buckell
On the top 3 of my favorite stories! This one is the one that made me think the most. I don't want to spoil any of it, so I won't say more, but the idea is SO GOOD! I never read a story like this, it was really original to me! The reader thinks about humanity, its place in the world and wonders if we are worth saving. 

- "Clockwork Fagin", Cory Doctorow
This story is inspired by Charles Dickens! I was apprehensive because of that, but I had a good time - if I may use these words with this story! The narrator, orphaned and crippled, is sent to an orphanage managed by Grinder - great choice of name by the way! The children are beaten regularly and made to beg in the streets. They are mistreated, just like Dickens' characters! Everything changes when Monty arrives. I won't say more! It was quite suspenseful at some point and I loved the ending! 

- "Spaceship October", Greg van Eekhout
This story deals with social justice and asks the question: to whom would the future be beneficial? It could be depressing - at some point, it is - but the ending balances it a bit. 
We follow children to make a discovery on their spaceship, October, taking part of humanity to Nova Terra. 

- "Lions and Tigers and Girlfriends", Tina Connolly
I feared I wouldn't enjoy this one because, in her foreword, the author talked about romance; but I really liked it! It deals with art and its power while dealing with love and teenage feelings! 

- "Give Me Cornbread or Give Me Death", N.K. Jemisin
What better to finish this collection? I didn't expect this story to have something particular that I really love in it: it made it perfect! I'd like a novel continuing this story! I basically loved everything: ideas, plot, characters, this sense of community and mutual assistance we can feel! Really, a great way to end the anthology! 


So, I discovered new authors to read and I had a great time traveling through time and space!
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I buy SF anthologies that feature favourite authors, but what I really get excited about is the chance to discover a new favourite author. Escape Pod is an anthology celebrating 15 years of the Escape Pod podcast, featuring some of the stories they have produced (never listened to the podcast but next road trip I will definitely try it out).
Usually in every collection there will be stories you love and some you don't care for but in this case there was no stories I felt were a waste of time. For me the best stories were from  T, Kingfisher, Ken Liu, John Scalzi, N K Jemisin and Cory Doctrow, and two from my NEW favourite authors Tim Pratt and Sarah Gailey. I have already purchased a novel from each author. This is the power of a great anthology, and Escape Pod is a great SF anthology.
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Escape Pod is a solid and compelling collection of mind-expanding, thought-provoking sci-fi shorts in which there is something for everyone, and as with all anthologies it is subjective which stories you prefer over others. The perfect escapism for our troubling times, I found myself engrossed and intrigued throughout.
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This anthology contains stories by accomplished authors. It was put together by Serah Eley, one of the founders of Escape Pod, a Sci-Fi podcast website. It contains stories by Ken Liu, John Scalzi, Ursula Vernon, and 13 other authors who were new to me. The stories address LGBT rights, government control, and race issues, all based in a futuristic environment. Each story takes about 20 to 30 minutes to read making the book perfectly suited for daily commutes or a distraction from daily workout drudgery. The longest part of the book was the coming-out foreword written by Serah Eley.

Some of the stories regarding human rights issues overtly address them whereas others are more subtle. None were rants! All titled entries contain storylines that kept my interest with one ending suddenly; before the story had fully developed. I like short story anthologies for those times when I have no choice but to sit and wait. Waiting is something that I don’t do well. I’ll read articles in waiting room periodicals and newspaper about subjects in which I have no interest. Or I’ll put in my earbuds for podcasts listening, although I sometimes think that this is rude. It gives notice to anyone near me that I don’t want to talk to them. Whilst that may true, it’s not what I want to portray. 

If you’re a Sci-Fi lover who’s looking for a quick read, Escape Pod: The Science Fiction Anthology will meet that requirement and the stories give you something to ponder when you’re through.
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Escape Pod, a science fiction podcast, is now 15 years old! To celebrate, the Escape Pod team and Titan Books have assembled fifteen stories by famous authors to create this collection. Some stories are reprints, others are original to the anthology. I love reading short fiction so when I saw the list of contributors, I was over the moon. From Ken Liu to N.K. Jemisin, T. Kingfisher, Mary Robinette Kowall, John Scalzi, Kameron Hurley and more, this anthology has it all!

The selection of stories is also very broad and diverse. All the stories are SF but they are all completely different from one another. Some stories are funny like Tim Pratt’s A Princess of Nigh-Space and T. Kingfisher’s Report of Dr. Hollowmas on the Incident at Jackrabbit Five, others are wholesome like the adorable Lions and Tigers and Girlfriends by Tina Connolly and others are angry commentaries about our society like N.K. Jemisin’s Give me Cornbread or Give Me Death or Maurice Broaddus’s City of Refuge.

Since the selection is so broad, some stories worked better for me than others. However, even the stories that I didn’t enjoy were well-written, they were just not to my taste like Fourth Nail by Mur Lafferty, a short story set in her Six Wakes world and that kind of completely spoiled Six Wakes? I might be completely wrong since I haven’t read the book but it seemed to be set after the end of the novel and it didn’t stand well on its own. Another miss was Alien Animal Encounters by John Scalzi. I have read several of Scalzi’s short stories and they tend to be hit or miss for me. Sometimes his humor works for me, sometimes it doesn’t and… it was the latter for this story.

Except for these two, I liked most of the stories and I really liked or loved the others! I am not going to talk about all the stories in detail because it would be very tedious to read (and to write about!) but here are my five favorites:

A Princess of Nigh-Space by Tim Pratt – 4.5*

Tamsin, a woman who just inherited the fortune of her grandmother, receives mysterious cards from Bollard and Chicane, two famous assassins who may or may not come from another dimension. And in this dimension, Tamsin isn’t a coder but a… princess?

This story is my first encounter with Tim Pratt’s works and I loved it. It’s very absurd but some moments were extremely funny and I really liked the unexpected twists and turns of this story!

Lions and Tigers and Girlfriends by Tina Connolly – 5*

This story was another absolute delight. Most science fiction short stories deal with very heavy themes and issues and it’s rare for me to giggle while reading or to feel very happy and hopeful at the end. However, it was the case with this story, it was geeky, goofy and adorable and I loved it.

It follows a theater nerd living on a spaceship as she assembles a theater troop to play a new and improved version of The Wizard of Oz, with lots of battles, flying cats and revolutionary angry teenagers. What more can I say about it? It was great. 😀

City of Refuge by Maurice Broaddus – 5*

On a completely different note, I really loved City of Refuge. Set in a world where the richest left Earth to live on terraformed planets and only the people who couldn’t afford remain on the dying planet. The main character is an ex-convict who is trying to build back his life but the entire world wants him to fail.

This story enraged me, I especially hated with a passion a character who is supposed to help ex-convicts but who only makes their life harder. However, I loved how it depicted the fact that some people are always left behind and how they have to live with the decisions made by people richer (and usually whiter) than them. City of Refuge is a powerful story and sadly way too relevant in 2020…

Give Me Cornbread or Give Me Death by N.K. Jemisin – 4.5*

This story by N.K. Jemisin deals with similar themes than City of Refuge like race, discrimination and injustice. However, even if both stories have similaries, I would highly recommend reading them both! I don’t want to say too much about this one because it would ruin the experience but if you like N.K. Jemisin and you like reading about dragons, you will love Give Me Cornbread or Give Me Death. 😉

The Machine that Would Rewild Humanity by Tobias Buckell – 4.5*

Finally, my last highlight is a story by Tobias Buckell. Set in a world where humans can only be seen in zoos and AIs rule the planet, this story follow a robot who works in a rehabilitation organization that wants to reintroduce humanity in New York.

I’ve never read a story with this kind of premise and I absolutely loved the idea and how it was executed. The themes explored were fascinating, the pacing was perfect and I loved how it ended. Buckell is an amazing short fiction writer and I ought to read more of his works!

FINAL THOUGHTS
I really enjoyed this anthology, I’m not an Escape Pod listener since I prefer reading short fiction rather than listening to it but now, I think I have to give the podcast a try!

I really appreciated how broad and diverse the selection of stories was and, even if some stories worked better than others, I wouldn’t add or remove any stories. I would definitely recommend this anthology, especially for readers who want to give short fiction a try. 😊

⭐⭐⭐⭐
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Good stuff. A nice mix of well-known and less known authors create a diverse set of stories that are good quality overall. There probably better collections out there, but this one is still worthwhile.

I really appreciate the review copy!!
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I am an avid reader of anthologies of just about any genre.  I can budget my time enough to start and finish a story quickly plus I find so many authors whose work I have grown to love.  I truly feel they are one of the best ways to introduce readers to genres and/or authors.

Escape Pod is a podcast anchored on the premise of reading scifi short stories aloud online, thus giving our ever moving generations the opportunity to do something other than play Candy Crush on their phones.  It has been a fan favorite for 15 years.  Thus the Escape Pod anthology is a collection of 15 short stories by some very well known authors and some that are on their way to being well known.  As in all things written, not every story will please everybody but I'm pretty sure the idea of having to reintroduce the human species into the wild after it becomes and endangered species will have everyone talking about this book.  5 stars because that all I can give.
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As I was reading, I wrote mini reviews of each story. Because that's the issue with reading short stories: each one kind of has to be taken separately - especially when they're by multiple authors. I'll admit, I was most excited to see familiar names: Hurley, Kingfisher, Jemisin. But I also discovered new-to-me authors whose other works I really want to check out, like Broaddus, Canto, and Van Eekhout.

There were a couple of weird things with the ordering. Namely that the first two stories had to do with midwifery in a collection that had no alignment with midwifery at all. But also that stories in the second half seemed more geared towards a younger audience (themes, style, less cursing, ages of protagonists, etc).

Not all short stories are created equal. And in fact, I was struggling through the first half of the collection because the stories felt incomplete or without a driving force. That was then corrected in the latter half, but I kept wondering: at what cost?
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Escape Pod began life as a science fiction anthology series fifteen years ago, created by the Steve (now Sarah) Eley, a fan of science fiction short stories who wanted to share some great tales with the world. Over the years the podcast grew, gaining more and more contributors and vocal talent, as well as winning awards and spawning spin-off's that would do the same thing in other genres. To celebrate the success of the podcast, as well as the talent that would feature on it, Escape Pod: The Science Fiction Anthology brings together a number of stories that have featured on the podcast, as well as a host of brand new tales.


The line-up of authors for the book is amazing, and features some names I was already familiar with, as well as a load of new authors I'd never come across before. Despite all falling under the umbrella of science fiction, the stories presented in this new collection have a huge variety in themes and content, ranging from the surreal, to steampunk, involving multiverses, cloning, time travel, and amazing alien creatures. There are stories that will make you laugh out loud at their absurdity, and others that take the time to comment on very real world issues, such as racism in the world today and the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement. This is one of the things that's wonderful about science fiction, that this book takes the time to celebrate, that it's a genre of almost infinite diversity, and one that allows readers and writers to look at important issues in new ways.

'Citizen's of Elsewhen' by Kameron Hurley is the first story in the book, and deals with the complexities and intricate nature of time travel, and how difficult it would be to meddle in time. It follows a group of people who are sent backwards in time to assist with births. This team of midwives are sent to select times and places, tasked with saving either the mother or child, sometimes both, who would otherwise die in childbirth, shifting the course of history ever so slightly. If the team fails, they try again to get it right, getting do overs until they succeed and move on to the next assignment. The idea of travelling around time saving mothers and babies is an interesting one, but the way that Hurley plays with time is even more engaging. The team get to try different tactics if their last attempt failed, having an almost Ground Hog Day approach to things until they get things perfect, but because there are other teams out in time saving others, sometimes in earlier time periods, it means that sometimes the timeline can change around them whilst they're there, further complicating things. It's a novel approach to time travel, and I'd love to have seen more with this story.

A story with something of a lighter tone is John Scalzi's 'Alien Animal Encounters', which is presented like a reporter on the street, talking to the public about the different alien animals that they've come across and how strange it is for them. Not only do readers get introduced to some funky new alien species, some of which are fascinating, but they also get to experience it from the other side, when an alien talks about their experiences with a dog; something that injects a little bit of wonder and newness to an animal that we're intimately familiar with, and might take for granted. It's a charming story, one that has a few laughs in it.

The book doesn't just deal with aliens and time travel though, and incorporates some interesting ideas from other genres too. One story that does this in an interesting way is 'A Consideration of Trees' by Beth Cato, which sees a portion of woodland from Earth transplanted to a space station, and the strange things that begin to occur. The first indication that there might be something different is when the narrator starts to talk about La Llorona, a ghostly woman from Hispanic folklore. Over the course of the book we come to realise that this isn't just a science fiction story, but one that incorporates aspects from myths and legends, introducing supernatural elements to a genre that normally shies away from ghosts and ghouls.

The biggest story in the collection is 'Clockwork Fagin' by Cory Doctorow, which as the name suggests, takes inspiration from the works of Dickens to create a steampunk story of disabled and disfigured children forced to live in a home for children, run by a brutal task master who allows them to live in squalor and beats them for his own enjoyment. The story chronicles what happens when a new child enters the home, and the revolution that he leads against their oppressor, and a society that sees them as nothing more than broken children that are good for nothing.

Escape Pod: The Science Fiction Anthology has a lot more stories to offer, stories that have a huge range of appeal and will keep any reader entertained for hours. Not only is a book that shows the beauty and versatility of the science fiction genre, but it's one that will leave you wanting to read more, as well as checking out the podcast that brought this book together.
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In 2005 Steve Eley started the science-fiction podcast Escape Pod in which short stories of different writers are read aloud. Afterwards he launched a second podcast for horror stories, PseudoPod, and later a third one for fantasy, PodCastle.
After posting an episode every week for five years on Escape Pod, he passed the torch and made a transformation to Serah Eley (who also wrote the foreword of this book).  
Since 2017 the podcast is co-edited by Mur Lafferty and S.B. Divya.

To celebrate the 15th year anniversary of Escape Pod they decided to compose an anthology of exactly 15 stories (one for each candle apparently) written by authors whose works were covered in the podcast previously. 
Some of those stories can be found on Escape Pod, but most of them are written especially for this book.
The line-up is really impressive. Just look at the names below!

The good thing about anthologies is that there's always something to everyone's taste. 
That's no different here. Humor, ethical questions, time travelling, AI, steampunk, … You can find it all in this book.
But the plus is at the same time a minus: it's very well possible that not all the stories will appeal to you equally.
Read other reviews and you'll see that every reader has different experiences.
One thing is for certain though: everyone agrees that there are some real gems in this book.

Here's my personal appreciation of the 15 stories in this SF-anthology, but it's highly recommended to judge them for yourself.
For me, this was a fascinating voyage of discovery during which I got to know many different authors and appreciated the stories of T. Kingfisher, Ken Liu and Cory Doctorow the most.
Without further ado:

Citizens of Elsewhen - Kameron Hurley ⭐⭐ 
A feminist take on time travelling midwives.
To say it in the author's writing style: "What a fucking moralizing story!"
It's not that swearing has to be banned out of a story, but it has to serve some purpose and that doesn't seem the fucking case here. So it's real shit that these words are thrown in at every fucking moment.
For the rest the story begins intriguing, although a bit confusing as well. It holds the attention till about two third, but then it begins to lecture the reader. There's no refinement at all and the 'message' is delivered (pun intended) far too explicitly, which actually nullifies it completely.

Report of Dr. Hollowmas on the Incident at Jackrabbit Five - T. Kingfisher ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
If you're a bit reticent because this is another midwives-story, there's absolutey no need to.
What a wonderfully humorous story!
It reminds of Douglas Adams in the best of ways and will certainly make you curious to discover other works of this author, who writes in different genres btw.

A Princess of Nigh-Space - Tim Pratt ⭐⭐
After an exciting start this story falls rather flat. Actually, it's as if you're reading a child's essay. The plot doesn't rise above the level of a predictable ten-year-old adventurer (except maybe for the end).
This story was written especially for this anthology.

An Advanced Reader’s Picture Book of Comparative Cognition - Ken Liu ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Pure poetry!
For everyone with a broad field of scientific interests (neuroanatomy, physics, chemistry, …).  
For people who like to eat food for thought and love to look at images painted by words. 
For those who are eternally searching for that sparkling sense of wonder.

Tiger Lawyer Gets It Right - Sarah Gailey ⭐⭐⭐
Original, but there's something missing which causes your attention to wander away. 
The whole story revolves around one central idea. And even though it's a good one, somehow it doesn't generate an overall feeling of satisfaction.
2,5* rounded up to 3*, because this story was better than the other 2*-stories.

Fourth Nail - Mur Lafferty ⭐⭐
After an interesting start things get in a muddle rather quickly.
An open ending can be good, but in this case the story just has no ending at all. It stops abruptly somewhere in the middle of the action, as if the word count was reached and the "That's all folks"-tune was already within hearing range.
It would definitely come better into its own if it were elaborated into a longer story or if the short story was well-rounded.

Alien Animal Encounters - John Scalzi ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Nice concept of little stories in a short story.
Each entry pulls you right away into the world of strange creatures and manages to evoke suspension of disbelief.
With a humorous finishing touch.

A Consideration of Trees - Beth Cato ⭐⭐⭐
An original mix of very different elements like robots, faeries, 'felizards', …
They're brought together in a nice way, although the story could use some more tension.
And sometimes it seems that there are too many 'messages' forced upon the reader, which doesn't feel natural anymore.
2,5* rounded up to 3*, because this story was better than the other 2*-stories.

City of Refuge - Maurice Broaddus ⭐
Science-fiction is all about imagination, endless possibilities and the feeling of exploration. 
This story doesn't reflect that point of view at all as it focusses almost entirely on anger and negativity.
There are a few elements that can be qualified as 'science-fiction', but they're just details that don't contribute anything to the story and could've been left out without any problem. In fact, this story would completely come into its own in a BLM-anthology. But in a SF-anthology it may not always be fully appreciated as some readers have other expectations.

Jaiden’s Weaver - Mary Robinette Kowal ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Delightful story about a twelve-year-old girl and her teddy bear spider.
What the latter is exactly, that's for you to find out.
One thing is certain: the author draws you immediately in her imaginative world.

The Machine That Would Rewild Humanity - Tobias Buckell ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Interesting take on AI and human behaviour.
Except for one little thing that kept nagging (view spoiler on Goodreads), this story was absolutely worth the read.

Clockwork Fagin - Cory Doctorow ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Great story for everyone who likes to be immersed in a steampunk world.
The beginning reminds of a scene in Nobody's Boy from Hector Malot, only much better written.
Although it's the longest story in this anthology, it reads much more smoothly than some of the shorter ones and it keeps you guessing what will happen next.

Spaceship October - Greg van Eekhout ⭐⭐⭐
Life on a generation spaceship forms the background to some ethical questions.
Again a story with a message, but brought with more subtlety this time.

Lions and Tigers and Girlfriends - Tina Connolly ⭐
About queer students in space who want to start a drama department in their school.
Whoa, whoa, wowowow!!! This is SOOOOOO Young Adult-like with all the abbr.'s and SHOUTING and teenage drama queen acts (yep, pun intended).
Good for those who like this kind of writing style. Although most adults probably won't be as overwhelmed by it as young teenagers.

Give Me Cornbread or Give Me Death - N.K. Jemisin ⭐⭐
Very short story which rambled on and on and which - just like some of the other stories in this book - shoved its message down the reader's throat and didn't show much refinement by doing that.
Nor is it the best one to end a SF-anthology with, as it is more fantasy with dragonlike creatures.
Nevertheless, an extra star as the characters didn't act like victims all the time (although not the same can be said about the written thoughts) and did defend themselves in a creative way.


*Thanks to NetGalley and Titan Books for providing a digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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This anthology is beyond amazing. In every story, I was impressed by the vibrancy, unique takes in sci fi, and range of emotions they evoked. I picked this up because of the stories by Ken Liu and NK Jemisin, neither of which disappointed, but I also met several new authors I'll need to start following. I also have never listened to Escape Pod before, but I'll be changing that!
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Escape Pod- Anthology- S.B. Divya Ed.- Celebrating fifteen years of Escape Pod podcast, we have fifteen stores by well recognized authors. My favorite is Tobias Buckell's The Time Machine That Would Rewind Humanity, about an AI who tries at bringing back the extinct human being. Also great stories from, Kameron Hurley, M.K. Jemisin, Cory L. Doctorow, Sarah Galley, and many others. Of course, with most anthologies, not everything is your cup of tea, but there are many evocative flavors to offer here. I think this is the best anthology I've read in quite a while.
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Book Review: Escape Pod - The Science Fiction Anthology
Authors & Editors: S.B. Divya; Mur Lafferty; N.K. Jemisin; Cory Doctorow; Ken Liu
Publisher: Titan Books
Publication Date: November 24, 2020
Review Date: November 5, 2020

From the blurb:
“The fifteenth anniversary of the Hugo-nominated science fiction podcast Escape Pod, featuring new and exclusive stories from today’s bestselling writers.

Finalist for the 2020 Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine.

Celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of cutting-edge science fiction from the hit podcast, Escape Pod. Escape Pod has been bringing the finest short fiction to millions of ears all over the world, at the forefront of a new fiction revolution.

This anthology gathers together fifteen stories, including new and exclusive work from writers such as from Cory Doctorow, Ken Liu, Mary Robinette Kowal, T. Kingfisher and more. From editors Mur Laffterty and S.B. Divya comes the science fiction collection of the year, bringing together bestselling authors in celebration of the publishing phenomenon that is, Escape Pod.”
——
Whoa! Totally fantastic science fiction short stories! Some of the very best science fiction stories I’ve ever read. Very creative, bringing to you unusual, outside the box worlds, beings and concepts. 5+ Stars. Highly Recommended. This is one of those rare books I think worth purchasing, if your library doesn’t carry it. Some of the top science fiction and speculative fiction writers are showcased in this anthology. This would make a fantastic Christmas gift for those family members and friends that love to read science fiction. This is one book not to be passed up.

Thank you to Titan Books for allowing me access to this amazing galley. Best of luck to all the editors and authors in your writing careers!

This review will be posted on NetGalley, Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble

#netgalley #escapepod #sciencefiction #titanbooks
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