Beyond the Sun, the science fiction anthology edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt, collects the stories of an eclectic group of authors. Eighteen writers contributed stories addressing the question, what lies beyond the sun? They answered that question with stories told by different species and genders, and their answers are as varied as the authors themselves.
One of the most enjoyable things about this anthology is the variety of perspectives portrayed by its contents. Some are full of hope on a new land, others contain unique and terrifying horrors, and still others reveal more about humanity as we envision ourselves evolving to meet the challenges of the future.
Another strength is the way the tales contrast and compliment each other. Mike Resnick’s humorous tale, Observation Post, is a fun look at pop culture from an alien’s point of view, drastically different from its predecessor, The Dybbyk of Mazel Tov IV, a strange story of aliens adopting human beliefs and culture in the face of the supernatural.
In fact, several of the stories drew attention to how religion would influence our development as human beings. In some instances, such as in Jason Sanford’s Rumspringa, religion helps preserve our humanity when humans themselves are augmented to the point their psyches are disjointed. However, in other tales, it is the aliens’ religious belief, such as in A Soaring Pillar of Brightness, that reveals as much about the aliens themselves as it does about human perception.
Many of these interstellar colonial tales focus on the perils of striking out for a new world, with all the hopes and hazards that those new frontiers would entail. While many concern the dangers of extraterrestrial flora and fauna, such as Jaleta Clegg’s One Way Ticket, others, such as Flipping the Switch by Jamie Todd Rubin, focus on less physical dangers in favor of psychological ones.
Almost every story engaged my attention and had some moral or philosophical point in addition to the plot, with only two exceptions. Gambrels of the Sky and Chasing Satellites failed to capture my interest, leaving me confused as to what exactly happened in both tales. Perhaps other readers would find them more understandable and enjoy them.
However, the overwhelming majority of stories involve intriguing characters and plots. Some made me cry, others laugh out loud, and I’ve found myself thinking about the tales long after I’ve finished reading. Many of the stories are worth the price of the anthology on their own, especially A Soaring Pillar of Brightness and The Dybbyk of Mazel Tov IV, both of which have engrossing plots; they also address timeless questions that will continue to be asked for as long as humans live and breathe.