A review of Rocket Science (edited by Ian Sales)

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Rocket Science was published by Mutation Press in April 2010.

Here's a short description of Rocket Science:

Rocket Science is a collection of 17 original stories of hard science fiction, accompanied by 5 original non-fiction essays on space exploration.

In the spirit of Mutation's mission to add to bibliodiversity, the stories were selected by an open call for submissions.

The authors, selected from a range of nationalities, are a mixture of published fiction writers, professional astrophysicists and aerospace engineers.


Rocket Science is a bit different kind of a science fiction anthology. In my opinion "different" often means "good", but in this case "different" means "VERY GOOD", because Rocket Science contains several high quality stories.

The editor of this anthology, Ian Sales, wanted to demonstrate that science fiction doesn't need implausible gosh-wow special effects and OTT space-operatics in order to be good science fiction or to entertain. I think he has succeeded admirably in collecting excellent stories that are entertaining without being coated with special effects.

Rocket Science contains 17 science fiction stories and 5 non-fiction articles/essays. There's also a section about recommended reading material (fiction and non-fiction). The non-fiction articles make this anthology interesting, because they add depth to it (it was interesting to read the non-fiction articles).

Almost all the stories are basically about the human condition, which makes them fascinating and separates them from several other science fiction stories. As most readers know, there are plenty of science fiction stories about mystical and supernatural happenings (and several short story collections and anthologies contain only these stories). Fortunately Rocket Science is a totally different kind of an anthology. I'll write more about this later.

Here's a bit of information about the stories and my thoughts about them (I'll try not to reveal too may things about the stories):

Tell Me a Story - Leigh Kimmel

  • This is a story about a children's book called "The Astronaut and the Man in the Moon". The events start in the present day, but the further events take place in the near future.
  • I like this story very much, because the author writes beautifully about the events.

Fisher's Gambit - Stephen Gaskell

  • An excellent and fantastically written story about a lonely space pilot (or perhaps I should say "scavenger").
  • The narrative alternates between past and near future.

Final Orbit - Nigel Brown

  • The events in this story take place aboard the International Space Station.
  • A good and interesting story.

Incarnate - Craig Pay

  • A superb and beautifully written story about parents and their cloned daughter's intention to kill herself.
  • This is one of the best stories I've ever read, because the author writes beautifully and touchingly about love, loss and sorrow.

Dancing on the Red Planet - Berit Ellingsen

  • An interesting and a bit different kind of a story about wanting to dance on Mars.
  • This is one of the lightest stories in this anthology.

Pathfinders - Martin McGrath

  • An excellent story about a crew of men who don't know why communications have broken down.
  • The author writes nicely about the homosexual relationship between two men.

A Biosphere Ends - Stephen Palmer

  • A short, but amazing masterpiece about an ecological disaster on a Martian colony.
  • This is one of the best stories in this anthology.

Slipping Sideways - Carmelo Rafala

  • A fascinating story about relationships, other realities/parallel universes and second chances.
  • This is a short, but well written story. It's amazing how much information the author has managed to put into a couple of pages.

Conquistadors - Iain Cairns

  • A good story about mining asteroids for valuable metals and minerals, and the rights of the humankind to do so.
  • The author keeps the story flowing nicely from start to finish.

Going, Boldly - Helen Jackson

  • A story about two friends, Olivia and Frankie, and Wandering Star Simulations.
  • I like the way the author writes about the women's friendship. The author also writes wonderfully about a yearning for change and a need for familiar things.

Why Barnaby isn't Aboard the ISS Today - Gary Cuba

  • A slightly funny story about Barnaby and his problems.
  • Barnaby is an interesting character and the author writes about him in a fascinating way.

Not Because They Are Easy - Sam S. Kepfield

  • This story has a different kind of structure, because it consists of interviews, documents etc. This kind of structure makes the story interesting.
  • In my opinion this is one of the most interesting alternate history stories I've read during the last couple of years.

The Taking of IOSA 2083 - C. J. Paget

  • A fascinating and well written near future tale about Xilou, her life and her work. This story features children grown in the jar etc.
  • This is one of the best and most interesting stories in this anthology.

The Brave Little Cockroach Goes to March - Simon McCaffery

  • An interesting and wonderfully written story about a cockroach aboard a spacecraft.
  • This is one of my favourite stories.

Sea of Maternity - Deborah Walker

  • A fascinating story about science, motherhood and a relationship between mother and daughter.
  • I like the way the author writes about the events and the characters.

The New Tenant - Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon

  • This story is set aboard the International Space Station. The author has chosen an interesting subject which he handles nicely.
  • A good story.

Dreaming at Baikonur - Sean Martin

  • An excellent story about a man called Sergei Pavlovich Korolev. Sergei Korolev is a real person: he was the lead Soviet rocket engineer and spacecraft designer in the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union during the 1950s and 1960s (more information about him can be found in Wikipedia).
  • I like this story, because it's a different kind of a science fiction story. It's interesting that the author writes about a real person.

The non-fiction articles/essays are:

  • Launch Day - David L. Clements
  • Making Mars a Nicer Place, in Fiction... and Fact - Eric Choi
  • The Complexity of the Humble Spacesuit - Karen Burnham
  • A Ray of Sunshine - Bill Patterson
  • Waverider Entry Spacecraft: A History - Duncan Lunan

As you can see, the topics of the stories range from Space Race to cloning (the stories take place on Mars, International Space Station and other places). The diversity of the stories and different locations offer lots of entertainment for fans of science fiction stories, because scientific accuracy and humanity meet each other with heartfelt passion in this anthology.

The non-fiction articles are as interesting as the stories. In my opinion David L. Clements' Launch Day could almost be a short story, because it's a personal account about events involving a launch of a rocket.

The authors aren't well known, but some readers may have heard of them. Their stories have appeared in several anthologies and magazines. All the authors seem to be talented and have an ability to write plausible science fiction,which is good.

The authors write easily about the human condition, different places and happenings. The quality of the writing is amazingly high, which is interesting, because usually anthologies contain at least a couple of stories, which aren't as good as the others. Each author has his/her own vision about things and our future. There are a couple of stories which are a bit similar to each other, but fortunately the authors handle things in a different way.

Earlier I mentioned that most of the stories are about the human condition. Now I'll write more about it:

Although the events of these stories take place in the near future where the technical and scientific skills of the humankind have developed to a higher level, these stories focus mostly on humanity, feelings and realism, which is great. There are stories which feature cloning etc, but the authors write about these themes through the characters and their feelings. Reading about the characters, their work and their feelings is enjoyable. It's great that the authors have successfully combined important aspects of scientific advancement and human life in their stories, because this kind of science fiction is at its best very entertaining.

I think it's good to mention that there aren't aliens in these stories. The lack of aliens is a good thing, because there are many anthologies which feature stories about contacts with alien lifeforms and unknown entities. All the problems and situations presented in this anthology are believable and they could happen to us in the near future. This kind of realism make these stories entertaining.

I liked all the stories and articles, but the stories which truly stand out are Stephen Palmer's A Biosphere Ends, Deborah Walker's Sea of Maternity, Craig Pay's Incarnate, Stephen Gaskell's Fisher's Gambit, C. J. Paget's The Taking of IOSA 2083, Martin McGrath's Pathfinders and Simon McCaffery's The Brave Little Cockroach Goes to Mars.

If you're looking for an interesting science fiction anthology, Rocket Science is an excellent choice. It's worth reading, because it's without a doubt one of the best anthologies of 2012.

Highly recommended!