Forward: Stories of Tomorrow Edited by Blake Crouch (website, Twitter), written by Veronica Roth, Blake Crouch, NK Jemisin (Twitter), Amor Towles (Twitter), Paul Tremblay (Twitter), and Andy Weir (Twitter)
Her Grace’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I read it as an: audiobook
Narrators: Evan Rachel Wood, Rosa Salazar, Jason Isaacs, David Harbour, Steven Strait, and Janina Gavankar
Source: my own collection
Published by: Brilliance Audio (8 Oct 2019)
This short story collection features six stories on the future state of society. Most are dystopian or post-apocalyptic settings, and others are scary in how recognizable they are.
I like short story collections written by a variety of authors. There is something for everyone in those kinds of anthologies and, though it’s not typical to like every story included, generally there are a couple gems that make the entire collection worthwhile. I found that to be true for Forward as well. There was really only one story I truly didn’t care for, but the rest, even the ones I didn’t love, all put in a solid showing.
“Ark” by Veronica Roth was maybe my favorite story in the collection. It is a surprising look at a handful of people and their lives in the last days before a world-destroying asteroid is due to hit Earth. I enjoyed the exploration of what makes a place “home” as well as the remarkably hopeful ending.
“Summer Frost” by Blake Crouch was one of my least favorite in the collection, mostly because I don’t care much about AI or gaming. Even so, it was an interesting topic and very well written, which made up almost entirely for any lack on my part. It dealt with themes of identity and awareness as well as what makes us human.
“Emergency Skin” by NK Jemisin was also maybe my favorite story in the collection. It is told from the point of view of an AI embedded in the brain of a man who is sent to Earth to collect vital samples. Earth isn’t what the man was led to believe, and it raises excellent questions about what makes an advanced civilization advanced.
“You Have Arrived at Your Destination” by Amor Towles is a really intriguing think-piece about what ramifications there might be when we choose the kinds of children we have. It also makes the main character, as well as me, think about his own choices in the past.
“The Last Conversation” by Paul Tremblay. This was easily my least favorite of the lot. I thought it dragged on and on. It was a story about consciousness and ethics.
“Randomize” by Andy Weir was a look at the function of the future of computers and they ways in which they can be misused. Set in a relatively benign setting – Las Vegas – it took apart ways people can use technology to do criminal things. It was interesting, but I wasn’t sure it really felt very “future” to me. Other than the quantum computers, there wasn’t much that struck me as being sci-fi or dystopian or post-apocalyptic at all, but it was a recognizable setting that brought an immediacy to the story.
Favorite stories (in this order):
- Ark by Veronica Roth. Who knew the apocalypse could be so hopeful? (Tied with Emergency Skin)
- Emergency Skin by NK Jemisin. What a cool twist! (Tied with Ark)
- You Have Arrived at Your Destination by Amor Towles. Who hasn’t thought about designing one’s own children?
Favorite narrators (in this order):
- Jason Isaacs (Emergency Skin). Though I expect nothing less from him, Jason Isaacs delivered a thoroughly riveting performance. He does tons of accents flawlessly and made the point of view character who narrates the story sound utterly disgusted with its observations. Disgusted, but still funny in that dry manner the Brits pull off so well. I hope Audible uses him as a narrator a LOT more.
- David Harbour (You Have Arrived at Your Destination). He’s just reading the story, but he puts feeling into it. Nothing overacted or melodramatic, but just a super entertaining narration.
- Janina Gavankar (Randomize). Gavankar elevated what I thought was one of the weaker stories in the collection and made it a lot more interesting with her skillful narration. As with Jason Isaacs, she had a broad range of accents and inflections that really brought the characters to life.