Halfway to Anywhere — Volume 1

I picked up this slender anthology solely because it had a William Meikle story in it.

Review: Halfway to Anywhere – Volume 1, 2017.

Cover by Zach McCain

William Meikle’s “Stars and Sigils” wrings a couple of variation on his Sigils and Totems formula. First, the sigils and totems “house” in this futuristic story is on a space station. Second, the narrator doesn’t use it an expected way to reconnect with his dead friend Johnny. It’s an unusual entry in Meikle’s series.

J. G. Faherty’s “Heroes Are Made” reminded me of Frederik Pohl’s “What Dreams Remain”. Both feature protagonists who are willing to sell out the future (the future of space exploration in the Pohl story, the future of humanity here) for comfort and safety. Barry goes to his summer cabin with his annoying wife and kids, and they are attacked by aliens which appear as duplicates of the family. The aliens are interested in taking over Earth and are impersonating humans to do it. They need help in perfecting their methods, so they make a proposition to Barry: teach them how to impersonate humans and he can have a better life – albeit under alien guard – than he does now.

Daedalus” from Jeremy Henderson takes too long to get to an obvious conclusion. The whole story is basically the officers of a starship discussing what to do after it’s been learned that their terraforming efforts to make a planet habitable have killed off a large portion of an unknown group of sentient aliens. The officers have to decide whether to turn around and surrender to the UN and be tried for genocide, kill the crew still in suspended animation, or carry on with the expedition and try to help the surviving native sentients.

Thousand-Yard Zoom” from Konstantine Paradias is an amusing story which has, in its premise, a logical bit of extrapolation. Cr41g is a sentient robot. That’s his peace name though. His war name is Number 24, Model C, Series 41, class G, a “killbot” designed for use in the Sino-Korean War. Sentient, he was not destroyed at the end of the war but decommissioned and entered civilian service. Specifically, he’s a superbutler for fearful Keith and his wife Shannon. They are, admittedly, a bit nervous about a butler who seems to always find some lethal solution to things like wasps and cat-killing birds. But duty calls again for Cr41g when an alien armada shows up around Venus. (Paradias gives Cr41g a somewhat unrealistic variety of powers, but many of the technical details seem plausible.) One of the highlights of the anthology.

We get an alternate history with Ramon Rozas III’s “To Do Your Duty”, and it’s an interesting one. In 1961, a meteor destroyed part of Vladivostok and Chicago. In response, the US and USSR form the joint Space Guard to protect against such events in the future. Some of the ships they use are propelled by nuclear weapons and, when a coup breaks out in the Soviet Union and tries to use those nukes, a group of ensigns on a training flight must learn about duty and sacrifice the hard way from their legendary commander. Alan Shepard even puts in an appearance.

It’s an entertaining anthology, and all the stories are worth reading except “Daedalus”.

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