“Quantum Zoo” is a sci-fi anthology I picked up last year in September after it was briefly free on Amazon. It was specifically recommended to me by friend of the blog, Marti, since it features a story by her mother. (Which was one of my favorites, by the way!) Normally, I’m not a huge fan of anthologies, and least of all sci-fi anthologies…this is probably because I got hold of some when I was a kid that weren’t-so-great and it put a bad flavor in my mouth on the whole concept.
But after reading “Quantum Zoo”, I feel healed of my aversion. This collection is absolutely amazing, with stories ranging from the deeply moving to the terrifying to the “oh shit, how clever!”. Many of them I still think about today, months after finishing the tales. There were a few that fell a little flat in my eyes, but they were in such magnificent company, it would be hard not to.
Unfortunately, I can’t describe in detail a lot of the different stories for fear of spoilers. The zoo theme means that a lot of the stories have twist endings or surprise plot changes midway through, and I’d hate to ruin that. Fun fact: For most of the book, I didn’t even realize that the stories were supposed to have a zoo theme, because I apparently can’t read covers or summaries. (Good job, Mandaray!) While that doesn’t say much about me, I feel it does say a lot about the subtlety and skill with which the authors in this anthology write their tales.
At first blush, you might think there are only so many ways for characters to find themselves in a zoo, and the ways you’d get there might be pretty cheesy. But not so in QZ. Instead of taking the easier route and just making it all about strange creatures in futuristic cages, QZ goes out of its way to examine how zoos make people feel. Everyone has their own way of looking at zoos, their own unique perspectives that can span across any time or place. Zoos also hold a special place in our culture, and a lot of the stories examine the feelings behind that as well. Some even create entirely new cultures, place the zoos in them, and then examine how that works. Again, I don’t want to say too much for fear of spoilers, but QZ really takes the reader on a multitude of amazing, intriguing journeys; many of which I didn’t think were even possible.
In short: This is a fantastic anthology that you should read as soon as you can. To me, it epitomizes the true soul of sci-fi: Expanding the mind of the person consuming it, and exploring what makes us human…or what makes us abandon our humanity. Fan or no of anthologies or even sci-fi, I still strongly encourage you to pick this up. There is so much variety to be found here that I truly believe there is a story in here for everyone.