Computer author Jeff Duntemann's second collection of short fiction runs the gamut from spaceflight to mathematically rigorous witchcraft. The volume includes "Cold Hands," (nominated for the Hugo Award) "Our Lady of the Endless Sky," "Inevitability Sphere," "Whale Meat," "Born Again, With Water," "Drumlin Boiler," "Drumlin Wheel," and "Roddie," plus a new excerpt from his hard SF nanotech adventure novel, The Cunning Blood.
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By Christopher Gerrib
Jul 1, 2010
Jeff Duntemann is a veteran computer writer, born and raised in Chicago, who also works in science fiction. Back in September 2008, he released a collection of all his computer-related fiction, entitled Souls In Silicon. I was pleased to review that book, and am now pleased to review his second short story collection, Cold Hands and Other Stories. Cold Hands is a collection of eight short stories, one seeing its first publication, and an excerpt from Jeff’s (so far) only SF novel, The Cunning Blood. Unlike Souls in Silicon, there is no overarching theme, although nanotech comes close, four stories having some level of nanotech in them. The title and leadoff short story, Cold Hands, is about Ed Gracyk (there’s a Chicago name for you!) who lost his arms in a space accident. The Combine visits him at his retirement home on Maine and offers him a set of arms better than his own, for a price – flying fuel ships for them. He accepts, but finds that rather than him owning his arms, the arms... More > own him. This conflict drives an interesting and exciting short story. Our Lady of The Endless Sky is the next story in the collection, and focuses on the need for religion and belief, even as Man colonizes the Moon. Inevitability Sphere, one of Jeff’s earliest stories, is about the burning need some people have to explore, no matter the cost. Also collected in the book are the story Whale Meat, Jeff’s only entry into fantasy writing, and Born Again, With Water, Jeff’s only story with aliens. The last three stories in the book are set in Jeff’s Drumlin universe. Here, unseen aliens have seeded the near galaxy with Earth-like life, except no primates. Human shipwreck survivors have landed on one world, and discovered not only the expected Earth-normal ecology but Drumlins – devices that make nanotech things from simple tools to unknown (and very complex) devices. On the Drumlin world, Jeff has set up a very interesting cold war between multiple groups of people. One group, the Grange, wants to exploit the Drumlin technology, while another group, the Bitspace Institute, wants to redevelop Earth technology and fix their starship. A third group, the largest, just wants to live their lives on the new world. To say this leads to some interesting conflicts is an understatement, and all three of the Drumlin World stories are little but highly enjoyable gems. Much like Jeff’s previous collection, Cold Hands is a must-buy book for anybody interested in enjoyable science fiction with ideas. Highly recommended.< Less
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