Review of Infinity Wars for Tangent

Review of Infinity Wars, edited by Jonathan Strahan


  • “In Everlasting Wisdom” by Aliette de Bodard (SF short story *)
  • “Command and Control” by David D. Levine (SF short story *)
  • “Heavies” by Rich Larson (SF short story)
  • “Weather Girl” by E. J. Swift (SF novelette *)
  • “ZeroS” by Peter Watts (SF novelette)

12 thoughts on “Review of Infinity Wars for Tangent

    • Not just that – we both divide the anthology into 5-story thirds and I don’t know that there was anything either of us loved that the other hated – any story not in the same group is just in the next one rather than the opposite one. There are a couple of stories, within that scale, that we feel pretty differently about, but there’s remarkable accord overall. I was thinking it was a very oddly ordered book with all five of my picks coming from the back half and four of yours come from there, too.

      I did rate the anthology higher overall because I put more stock in the numerous hits than the misses, but we’re not too far off there, either, and I see where you’re coming from.


      • What’s more amusing is that our reasons are often completely different.

        However, I was pleased to see that I wasn’t the only one who found the use of “they” instead of “it” for the parasitic, telepathic alien distracting.


      • It’s like a variant of the “blind men and an elephant.” We may have had different reasons, but they were still mostly elephants. 🙂

        That de Bodard was weird, though. That was very distracting and, as I say, I’m not disposed to like her stories but you described the great “Weather Girl” as “Sophisticated and Heart-Wrenching” which I agree with, but I thought that would also be a pretty good description of “In Everlasting Wisdom.”


      • I didn’t find “Everlasting Wisdom” heart-wrenching because I had trouble caring about the protagonist. Even at the end she’s mourning the Everlasting Emperor, although I suppose the very last sentence implies that she got over him eventually. And, of course, she’s still carrying that parasite.


      • Well, that’s what her feeding the assassin instead of killing her or turning her over for execution was supposed to do. 🙂 I don’t see her as mourning the Emperor, really. The Empire and she and the alien have all been brain-washing each other all their lives and it’s what they know and what gives meaning to their lives. She’s more like a battered wife or something – we can stand outside and say Just Leave! but she’s trapped. And she’s remarkably kind and pro-active given all this and does eventually declare she’ll make a new life for herself, so it’s a kind of triumph. (The alien will learn to biofeedback/affirm new stuff. ;))


      • Yes, her caring for Hoa did go a long way toward humanizing her. As did her sacrifice to save her daughter’s life.

        Perhaps the real problem is that she didn’t do anything to gain her freedom–others killed the Emperor–nor has she paid any real price. Her daughter and aunt are presumably still alive. She’s even still got her alien. It’s hard for something to be heart-rending if there is no real loss.

        In “Weather Girl,” Lia’s project is a huge success, and yet she paid a terrible price.


      • Yeah, I’ll grant that she doesn’t kill the emperor or necessarily suffer in the ways you describe. Her universe does collapse but that is actually a good thing, though she can’t feel it yet. (When I referred to “heart-rending” (and mean more “heart-tugging” anyway) I was thinking more of the second meeting between the two women and the alien than of the end.) The big picture is outside her control but I don’t think this makes her passive, though. She still has to decide to become a harmonizer, to not kill Hoa, to abandon the Empire, etc. It’s like a swimmer who isn’t responsible for the currents but is very actively swimming.

        As far as Lia, I’m not sure I see the project as a “success” so much as a horror in itself. Her loss of her ex-husband just brings home what she’s actually doing to thousands and thousands of others. Being a harmonizer is benevolent in comparison. Truly scary idea Swift had there, and dramatized brilliantly. My one gripe there is that I almost feel like we should have witnessed that final wall of water or flying object or whatever did the husband in but I think you expressed it very well when you describe how he’d already given up. That was actually the crushing climax and maybe more would just have been overkill.


      • The story implies that, terrible as the typhoon damage was, it ended the danger of war between the US and China, so it was a net success–a big one. War is terrible even when it’s justified.


      • Hm, I don’t remember that part. China is a player in several stories but I don’t remember it being specified here and I don’t recall a specific war being averted. This is just trying to inflict damage on the civilians of an enemy in a zero sum game – it may preserve her side from hitting zero first but there will just be continued masked storm strikes and devastation and so on. But I could have misread it.


      • I simply inferred it was China. No other location was feasible, and the description sounded a lot like Shanghai.

        At the end it says

        “Operation Myanna, as it would be known in the classified files, counted as a success. The damage would run into the trillions, and surveys reported public morale at an all time low. No one would be thinking of the materials war.

        That’s where I get the idea that it forestalled a war. Rereading the first bit, it implies that the work is necessary for there to be a safe future for children, but it’s not more explicit than that. I may be reading too much into it.


      • You may well be right. Given that it was not explicitly identified and set in the future, and not knowing anything about Shanghai, I just assumed it was supposed to be “unspecified populous region on the Asian side of the Pacific” but who knows? I also took “materials war” to be a depiction of “one small facet of a larger war that we’ve caught up on not by creating more of our stuff but by destroying more of their stuff… stuff including civilian people.” But I may be reading too little into it. Or too much of a different sort. 🙂 (That is one thing true of several stories in the anthology: vague settings and/or complicated combat parameters.)


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