cover image Cracking the Sky

Cracking the Sky

Brenda Cooper. Fairwood (, $17.99 trade paper (298p) ISBN 978-1-933846-50-7

This capable collection of hard SF stories (mostly reprints) focuses squarely on world- building, from the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. to the far reaches of space. Cooper (Edge of Dark) works hard to center each piece on a way that technology has influenced human lives: robot guardians (“The Robot’s Girl”), virtual reality for bubble babies (“The War of the Flowers”), living in the ocean (“Trainer of Whales”), serving as a companion to astronauts (“Second Shift”), and AI rights (“Blood Bonds”), to name a few. Affluent college students invade the minds of poor people around the world in the creepy “Riding in Mexico.” The flash fiction “My Grandfather’s River,” featuring a person bringing an old man’s memories back to life, is more optimistic. The collection concludes with two strong stories set in a world where robot dogs fight side by side with human soldiers. Though the threats in these final stories are high-tech, Cooper captures the danger of being a grunt, bringing a real emotional zing that’s missing from some of the other tales. Those who love technology-driven stories will find a lot to like. (Aug.)