Decision Points(WordFire Press)
Edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt
I’m always a fan of stories that ask, “How would people handle having this new technology, this magical power, this situation? Decision Points asks all of those questions. And it has characters who are usually children or young adults making the hard choices.
The anthology starts with Jonathan Mayberry’s “Sisters.” How would children handle a Zombie Apocalypse? I really hate zombie stories and gore, but this was bearable and actually pretty good.
Then we have Nnedi Okorafor’s “Sankofa.” How would a child handle being able to kill at a whim? By the time Sankafa is 13, she has control of it now. It’s lonely, but she copes with her reputation and her past when she could not control it. Haunting.
Jenifer Brozek hit a home run with “The Prince of Artemis V.” It asks, what would humans on another planet do if they were offered a chance to leave a hellish place, but only as children who knew it would kill their parents? And would they really be leaving, or was this offered escape another form of death?
“Aftermaths” by Lois McMaster Bujold is a good introduction to her Vorkosigan Saga for those not familiar with it. The person making the decision here is the secondary character, who learns, instead of turning away, to look death in the eye with courtesy and pity.
Robert J. Sawyer’s “Driving a Bargain” deals with a young man’s first car. But it’s the car’s previous owner that needs to make a decision. And the car makes sure it happens.
The decision in E.C Meyers’ “My Father’s Eyes” is of a young man who finds out his father is a regressive, a Neo-anderthal. Will he get the disease? It’s hereditary. And if his father is still alive but the illness has made him a “caveman” does he want to meet him?
“Like a Thief in the Light” by Alethea Kontis tells of a young misfit, half shadow being. He’s not a soul eater like many shadow walkers, he’s a street sweeper who cleans up the messes of the vampires, soul suckers, gargoyles and other magical beings. His foster father is dying, the only person who loved him despite his rainbow-mottled deformed skin. Can he find a way to keep his mentor alive. Should he?
My absolute favorite tale in the volume is Cory Doctorow’s “Clockwork Fagin.” Imagine a punch of poor, abused crippled children in a Clockpunk alternative setting, and their decisions making them a way in the world that does not eventually require their “Fagin” to survive. Sheer delight.
“Postcards,” by Rebecca Moesta, really touched me. I sort of saw the ending coming but did not care as the characters were, well, very enchanting. In a way, of the two decisions made in this story, the narrator makes the most important one: caring about others and realizing their troubles might be worse than her own.
In Robert Silverberg’s “The Outbreeders” we meet two groups of settlers on an alien world that have kept apart by something like the feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys. Will they perpetuate the feud, become a tragic Romeo and Juliette, or will they take a new path?
Having just read Bryan Thomas Schmidt’s The Worker Prince, I was glad to see a story set in that world, “Rivalry on the Sky Course.” I love these characters and was pleased to see more of them. As a standalone, this short asks, “How do you deal with an enemy honorably?”
“An Echo in the Shell” tells the tale of a teen girl with a very ill grandmother. She has to decide to accept something pretty horrible about the illness is true, and then decide what to do about it. Probably the darkest tale in the volume, you find yourself second-guessing the girl’s choices as you identify with her.
Lou Antonelli’s offering is “The Milky Way Dance Hall.” I enjoyed it very much, and will not give you any clue other than to say: Read it. You’ll be glad you did. (Antonelli has a wonderful voice and you could read it for that alone but this, this is more.)
Kat Corcino’s “Blood and Water” is certainly a decision point, and it shows how the wrong decision can be deadly to your spirit. Chilling.
Oh, look: a Mike Resnick Story! “The Boy Who Yelled “Dragon” (a fable) is wry and fun.
The “Newts” of Kevin J. Anderson’s tale are neutered males with emotion-damping implants, living on a habitat near Saturn’s rings. Writing an altered state of consciousness that sucks you in is incredibly hard, but Anderson does it with seeming ease. As the one calm head in an explosive situation, should our “newt” be using his head, or the emotions that do not touch him?
Paranormal thriller “Babydoll” was great. As an introduction to K.D. McEntire’s Lightbringer series, it made me want to read more. As for the choice in the story. . . it was a hard one, but the right one.
Ditto “Shade” by Stephen Gold: as an intro to his Jumpers series it’s first rate. Here the question is, what would you do to make the world a better place if you had a magical power? And enemies who would find you if you used it? Lovely.
I loved “Granted” by Jody Lynn Nye. It’s an old-fashioned fairy tale, pure and simple, with heart. Abigail saves someone from faerie and is granted a wish. How will she spend it?
It ends with a tale by Orson Scott Card: “A War of Gifts.” Aptly named. This is a reprint but I’d never read it and it showed all the brilliant interpersonal psychology of the best parts of the Ender universe. It was high note to end the anthology on.
This is listed as a YA anthology, but there is no talking down to young people here. Libraries and parents wanting a thought-provoking read should buy it, yes, but adults will find much to ponder. RECOMMENDED