Cover Image: Entanglements

Entanglements

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

This includes some excellent, and some well-known authors, and is a pretty solid collection of stories. Some excellent ideas are explored, as well as some thought provoking ones. For sci-fi anthology fans, this will be a decent bet.

I really appreciate the review copy!!
Was this review helpful?
This anthology is all about relationships, and how they might be influenced by new tech in the future.

The ideas presented in this collection are awesome, from the avatars that chat with each other to test compatibility to nets which capture thoughts and memories to create an afterimage of a person that will remain after their death. 
I really liked the idea of AIs going rogue and haunting a smart house which means you have to call the ghost busters.

But, sadly, I have to say that I enjoyed the ideas more than the execution, hence the three stars.

The arc was provided by the publisher.
Was this review helpful?
Disclaimer: I would like to thank MIT Press for kindly providing a copy of this book to review.

"Entanglements" is edited by the multi-Hugo award winning editor of "Asimov's Science Fiction", Sheila Williams, and published by MIT Press. This anthology contains ten stories by highly acclaimed authors which consider the effect that technology might have on human relationships. This combination makes for powerful stories as the authors explore the human side of gene editing, brain scans to allow interactions with departed loved ones, artificial humans, mind control through memory manipulation, and the complicated intersection of Buddhism, technology, good/evil, and revenge/acceptance, and other topics.

The stories that Shelia Williams edits tend to be the kind of stories that I like. So it is not surprising that I found nearly all of these stories to be quite good, though I particularly recommend Ken Liu's translation of Xia Jia's "The Monk of Lingyin Temple" for its clarity, message, balanced handling of the spiritual with technology, and exotic Buddhism.
Was this review helpful?
Invisible People by Nancy Kress starts the anthology, and while I found the premise intriguing with some parallels to the modern anti-vax movement, I found the narrator unlikeable and the science of the story a little unrealistic. I had a hard time connecting to any of the characters, and was less interested than I otherwise might have been because of this.

Echo the Echo by Rich Larson is the next up, and I enjoyed the story. The future of dating profiles and technology seemed believable enough while still being entertaining, and the dialogue between the narrator and his grandmother have the familiar feel of oft-repeated conversations. The ending of Echo the Echo was a little bit neatly wrapped for my taste, but I appreciated the message it delivered nonetheless. 

Sparklybits by Nick Wolven is next up, and I’m not thrilled with the representation of unconventional parenting, or of a child on the autism spectrum. I liked the story, and the idea of technological ghosts is a fascinating one, but the implications of all of Charlie’s mother’s having tension-filled interplay, and only Jo ‘truly’ caring for him and being his biological mother to be a little on-the-nose, and I didn’t trust any of the adults in the story to look out for Charlie’s best interests. The justification of Charlie’s abnormal behaviour and communication methods also rubbed me the wrong way, and I wish I had found at least one of the characters (Sparklybits aside) sympathetic. Instead the story was almost like Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Ernest, where the characters were overblown parodies of the folly of society—in this case I must assume neurotypical parents trying to ‘better’ a child by taking away his coping mechanisms. I also wish the idea of a communal family wasn’t tarred with the brush of toxic competitiveness, as I believe large support groups for children (particularly neuro-divergent children) could be incredibly helpful. 

A Little Wisdom by Mary Robinette Kowal is one of my favourites from the book, and I loved the seamless integration of Gail’s job, disability and relationships. The technology used in the book to treat Gail’s Parkinson’s was thoroughly believable, and I loved that while her life was altered by her illness, she was still fully in control of her life and competent in her career. The interplay between humanity and nature, art and the divine, fear and the small beauty around us, was explored beautifully in this story, and while the culminating threat in this story could have been foreshadowed a little more, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. 

James Patrick Kelly’s Your Boyfriend Experience is next, and while the first page or two were a little confusing, I thought the story was engaging and took an interesting look at the ethics of robots. Dak, Jin and Tate were interesting characters, and I liked learning more of the dynamics of Jin and Dak’s relationship as the story went on. A small note, but I found the mention of straight men, gay men, and women at the beginning of the book to be a little jarring. Most likely it was a simple oversight, but I find it hard to believe that lesbians and other WLW wouldn’t also be a part of the market for female playbots. Aeri and Sofia added interesting touches to the story, and I like the inclusion of various opinions on the topic of playbots, as this variation added believability to the story. The ending of Your Boyfriend Experience was a little vague, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. 

Mediation by Cadwell Turnbull was well-written, and I enjoyed the slow reveal of the inciting events of the novel, though I wish the feelings of Dr Lyon’s children had been explored a little more. The use of the mediation program to both lay bare the narrator’s actions and motivations was effective, and I enjoyed the neat way the conflict both evolved and resolved. 

Sam J Miller’s The Nation of the Sick is up next, and I loved the elegant way Austin’s relationship with Colby was woven throughout the story surrounding Cybil’s disappearance. I wish the plot had been stronger, and the conclusion more definite, but I loved the poetic, dreamy feel of this story, and the optimistic use of technology to improve the world that was presented. 

Don’t Mind Me by Susanne Palmer was another great addition to this anthology, and the idea of minders as real-world censors is eerily believable. Jake is a sympathetic character, and I appreciated the commentary on intersectionalism included in this story. While Jake is being wronged, his female, black or less fortunate compatriots with minders are suffering in different and layered ways due to their disadvantages. The ending of this story did seem slightly unrealistic to me, but I appreciated the optimistic view of growing up, and learning to hold your own. I was reminded at times of Melina Marchetta’s novel, On the Jellicoe Road, and really appreciated the found family feeling of the clean-up/study group.

The Monogamy Hormone by Annalee Newitz was an interesting read, and I was glad for the change of tone that a romantic drama provided at this point in the anthology. The science of this story was funny, well-integrated, and overall a nice touch in The Monogamy Hormone. I at first found Edwina annoying, but eventually came to appreciate her and sympathise with her struggle against her own perception of her choices. Augie and Chester were both refreshingly mature about her conflict, and I enjoyed the way this story resolved. 

The anthology wraps up with Xia Jia’s The Monk of Lingyin Temple, translated by Ken Liu, an incredible story that I’m glad I read. The seamless integration of technology with philosophy and religion was a great change of pace, and I loved that there was never a false dichotomy of faith vs tech. I was reminded a little at times of Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange, though the tone of The Monk of Lingyin Temple was nothing similar, instead having a dreamy, peaceful feeling, set as it is throughout a set of monastic rites. The characters presented were sympathetic and well-rounded, and I believe fans of Raymond E Feist’s work would enjoy this story. 

If there’s one criticism I have of this anthology, it’s that each story tends to wrap up very neatly and quite quickly. Everything has such a definite ending, and is written so efficiently, that in some cases it can seem too neat, and detract from the originality of the story. I appreciated the diversity present in this book, both in characters ad authors, and enjoyed the various social issues that the stories in this anthology commented on, paralleled, and attempted to provide solutions for. I found the futuristic integration of technology intriguing, at times touching, and often hair-raisingly likely. 

In all, Entanglements is a quick, entertaining anthology that provides ample opportunities for reflection on the future we’re creating, and the opportunities both for growth and problems that this creates. Anyone who enjoys reading science fiction that doesn’t shy away from social commentary will find plenty to enjoy in this anthology.
Was this review helpful?
Thanks to NetGalley and MIT Press for an ARC of this title.

I love sci-fi/fantasy anthologies because they're a great chance to find new authors, and, for something like this, to see a bunch of different takes on the same general theme -- in this case, relationships, whether they be family, romantic, or something else entirely.

This was just okay, and that's why I think I was disappointed by this. Even with anthologies I love, there's always a story or two that you skip or skim because it's Just Not Your Thing. This unfortunately felt like a book made up of things that weren't doing it for me, from some authors I've read before in the past and loved! There's some interesting ideas here, but a few too many of the stories don't quite hit what they're aiming for.
Was this review helpful?
The Twelve Tomorrow's series by MIT is an annual anthology featuring near future SF stories. I really liked the past issues, and came to the same conclusion this year: there are some gems in it making the anthology worth its price and time investment, resulting in 3.5 stars. This year's novelty is a common topic "Entanglement" for the original stories, providing a more humanistic instead of technological view on our future. This resulted in some stories which I tagged as "Romance SF" which might by a neologism as a SF subgenre - though I'm fully aware that romances in SF go back to pulp SF times. Usually, I don't buy into romance stories, but James Patrick Kelly's novelette "Your Boyfriend Experience" is a very fine example which I really liked: it features a charming lovebot in an unusal restaurant episode. Most prominent in this anthology is Nancy Kress, opening with a novelette "Invisible People", supported by a very insightful biography and interview - both were excellent and let me look forward reading the whole anthology. The story combines Kress's trademarked humanistic topic with contemporary trends like nonbinary characters and very strong females. Another gem in this anthology is "Sparklybits" by Nick Wolven, combining multi-motherhood with A.I. companions. On the negative side there are stories which I simply didn't understand or which I didn't like that much - in other words: a plain normal anthology, worthwhile for everyone who likes Near Future SF set in our own world and society - you won't find space opera or cyberpunk here.


 	1    • ★★★★☆ • Invisible People • 2020 • Near Future SF novelette by Nancy Kress • review
 	25  • ★★★★☆ • Profile: Nancy Kress • 2020 • Biography and Interview by Lisa Yaszek • excellent biography and a longer interview by the highly qualified professor of SF studies, uncovering not only Kress's background, but also emphasizing the author's "reputation for weaving ethical debates about the meaning and value of new scientific and medical trends into vividly dramatized stories", linking "big technoscientifc ideas with intimate portraits of families and relationships". The interview also gives insights into her process of translating hard science to the ethical aspects of societal change. She says that "science itself is fascinating. But unless I can translate it into narrative, and its effect on people, it doesn't hold as much fascination, and it doesn't, of course, create stories. Because stories are made out fo and for people." The influence by Ursula K. Le Guin is obvious, and I guess that's why I love her work.
 	35  • ★★★☆☆ • Echo the Echo • 2020 • Near Future SF short story by Rich Larson • review
 	51  • ★★★★☆ • Sparklybits • 2020 • Near Future SF short story by Nick Wolven • review
 	75  • ★★☆☆☆ • A little Wisdom • 2020 • Near Future SF short story by Mary Robinette Kowal • review
 	93  • ★★★★☆ • Your Boyfriend Experience • 2020 • Romance SF novelette by James Patrick Kelly •  review
 	123 • ★★☆☆☆ • Mediation • 2020 • Near Future SF short story by Cadwell Turnbull • review
 	135 • ☆☆☆☆☆ • The Nation of the Sick • 2020 • Near Future SF short story by Sam J. Miller • I just didn't get this story and have no intention re-reading it, so I leave it unreviewed.
 	151 • ★★★☆☆ • Don't mind me • 2020 • Near Future SF short story by Suzanne Palmer • review
 	171 • ★★☆☆☆ • The Monogamy Hormone • 2020 • Romance SF short story by Annalee Newitz • review
 	185 • ★★☆☆☆ • The Monk of Lingyin Temple • 2020 • Near Future SF novelette by Xia Jia (translated by Ken Liu) • review
Was this review helpful?
I receive an ARC for a book recession. I loved reading the stories. They were wonderfully unexciting, but overall, well told. It is something for the time where you do not wish for suspense, horror or alike. I cannot comment on the artwork as it is not included in my ARC. 

Here's my review in detail:
1. Invisible People by Nancy Kress – 5 stars: Interesting story line about how much genes affecting our behaviour. 
2. Profile: Nacy Kress by Lisa Yszek – 1 star: what has the author portrait and interview to do in this book?
3. Echo the Echo by Rich Larson – 4 stars: Interesting theory about conserving memories. Well written, but did not touch me a lot. 
4. Sparklybits by Nick Wolven – 5 stars: what a story and I hope such a future will never happen. The end was unexpecting and good. 
5. A little Wisdom by Mary Robinette Kowal – 3 stars: well written, not my story as bit boring. 
6. Your Boyfriend Experience by James Patrick Kelly – 4 stars – it took a will but, in the end, I liked the story about human-like robots. 
7. Mediation by Cadwell Turnbull – 4 stars: how to deal with loss with the help of intelligent programs. 
8. The Nation of the Sick by Sam J. Miller – 4 stars: a story about human connection, friendship and missing the not so obvious. 
9. Don't mind me by Suzanne Palmer – 5+ stars: great story about mind altering to protect the young. Love it. 
10. The Monogamy Hormone by Annalee Newitz – 4 stars: Are you free to live your love or do you follow old patterns? Nice read.
11. The Monk of Lingyin Temple by Xia Jia – 4 stars: Karma is a bitch or how life events influence you heavily. It looked like the story would be great but the conclusion did not meet the story building.
Was this review helpful?
Entaglements is an anthology of stories about the impact of future technology and other developments on interpersonal relationships. In doing that, it focusses more on the emotional impact than on hard SF, exploring how relationships of any kind change but still, in their core, are about caring about each other and leaving an impression in someone’s life.

There is a diversity in the relationships portrayed, ranging from parent – children, to friendships, to lovers, and even if you are not really into romance or family drama, that’s not a problem at all, since these are still more SF stories than anything else. I especially liked the positive portrayal of interactions between generations.
A lot of the stories are quite similar in style, apart from outliers like the last story by Xia Jia, were the cultural influences are very apparent, and quality, making this a consistent anthology were readers that like one story most likely enjoy all of them. The stories are written for a modern audience, some actively pushing progressive ideas, some being more open to any conclusion the reader might come to. The emotions of the main characters were easy to grasp for me and I enjoyed the variety of themes and ideas discussed, like childcare and relationship models or memory. The tone is predominately optimistic, which was also nice.

There was only one story that I didn’t care for, but that was more because of the topic than because of its execution. My favorites were the ones by Mary Robinette Kowal, Annalee Newitz and Sam J. Miller, either because of artistic decision, the way they made me feel for the protagonists or just how interestingly the concept was handled.

If you like character focused stories or science fiction that is more about the effects on everyday life, give this collection a shot. I really appreciated how logical conclusions about possible developments in the near future were presented here. That said, if you’re looking for wild new ideas that no one has discussed in SF before, that’s not what this it, but if you want to see known theories played out in an emotional and maybe realistic way, this is really enjoyable.
Was this review helpful?
Woohoo. I’m the first person to review this book . Always a pleasure when there it’s a genuinely good read. There are so many science fiction and science fiction adjacent books out there that claim to be reminiscent of Black Mirror, trying to ride their way on that show’s almost entirely well deserved popularity, but few actually hit that level of cleverness, inventiveness and social awareness. This collection, I’m pleased to say, did. Mostly. It’s apparently a sixth volume in an ongoing series titled Twelve Tomorrows, but this is the first one I’ve heard of and (what are the odds) the first thematic one and I do so love thematic anthologies. This one is all about personal connections, whether familial or romantic. And each story has to do with how the technological advancements of the future will affect the way people interact and relate with each other. That’s exactly what Black Mirror did best and exactly the kind of science fiction I love. No space operas for me, none of that military sci fi, no cardboard clichés in an overbaked in tech and overdone in spec jargon actioneers….none of that. Give me a good character driven story anytime. Enhance it with otherworldly scenarios and concepts, sure, but only so long as it serves the dramatic plot. For me the social, sociological and psychological ramifications of the rampant technological advancements, especially since they tend to outpace society’s natural evolution, are about as fascinating of subjects as you can find. And in there stories, that’s what takes center stage and shines. Every time. There are all the standard elements you’ll find in the modern woke sort of fiction, it’s gender/sexual orientation/race, etc. progressive, there are robots (and sexbots) and eDawgs (and oh how awesome are those) and futuristic tech of all kind, but the main thing is always people, the ties that bind them and the connections that so entangle them. And that’s what makes it such a great, relevant, relatable, important and engaging read. Content wise there is a foreword and then something like ten (maybe?) stories, all of good length and one closer to a novelette and author’s bios. The featured author of this collection is Nancy Kress, whom I’ve read before and then and now the overall impression is somewhat lukewarm, like not love sort of thing, so anyway, she gets the first story slot and an expanded bio and an interview. The name recognition is about even with known and unknown authors, but it stands to mention the unknowns do just as impressively if not more so than the popular authors. I still don’t seem to care for Newitz’s writing. Didn’t like her novel and even here with her dating ditty short doesn’t do much, it’s woke as f*ck, sure, but overall too cutesy and bubbly and kinda off key with the main composition. Well meaning is fine and a lot of these stories are, but there ought to be a certain darkness underneath to really work, that is, after all, what makes Black Mirror work so well, because technology for all its awesomeness hasn’t actually made people’s personal lives uniformly easier or simpler, in fact it tends to mess things up right along with improving them. Just think about the smartphones, they have certainly not done any miracles for personal communication skillsets. People just forget to pay attention to what’s going by the wayside when they think they are gaining something new and shiny…like spellcheck atrophying spelling skills and so on. But anyway, this is digressive, but it’s along the lines of thinking this anthology might inspire. What’s gained and at what cost as technology stampedes on in its relentless march of progress. So yeah, this was very good. Recommended for all fans of intelligent literary science fiction. Thanks Netgalley.
Was this review helpful?
The title is a play on quantum entanglements and personal entanglements, with the intent of showing the impact of near-future technology changes on personal relationships.  I am the old-fashioned sort of SF reader who doesn't read SF for human drama and feelings - I am the classic nerd who reads for ideas and sense of wonder.  For me, this collection doesn't work for that reason.  If you're into touchy-feely, this one's for you.
Was this review helpful?