The 21st century.
Europe is divided between the First World bourgeoisie, made rich by nanotechnology and the cheap versatile slave labour of genetically engineered Dolls and the Fourth World of refugees and homeless displaced by war and economic upheaval. In London, Alex Sharkey is trying to make his mark as a designer of psychoactive viruses, whilst staying one step ahead of the police and the Triad gangs. At the cost of three hours of his life, he finds an unlikely ally in a scary, super-smart little girl called Milena, but his troubles really start when he helps Milena quicken intelligence in a Doll, turning it into the first of the fairies.
Milena isn’t sure if she’s mad or if she’s the only sane person left in the world; she only knows that she wants to escape to her own private Fairyland and live forever. Although Milena has created the fairies for her own ends, some of the Folk, as fey and dangerous as any in legend, have other ideas about her destiny …
One minute, down-and-out actor Lorenzo Smythe was – as usual – in a bar, drinking away his troubles as he watched his career go down the tubes. Then a space pilot bought him a drink, and the next thing Smythe knew, he was shanghaied to Mars.
Suddenly he found himself agreeing to the most difficult role of his career: impersonating an important politician who had been kidnapped. Peace with the Martians was at stake – failure to pull off the act could result in interplanetary war. And Smythe’s own life was on the line – for if he wasn’t assassinated, there was always the possibility that he might be trapped in his new role forever!
Once, Xhea’s wants were simple: enough to eat, safety in the underground, and the hit of bright payment to transform her gray-cast world into color. But in the aftermath of her rescue of the Radiant ghost Shai, she realizes the life she had known is gone forever.
In the two months since her fall from the City, Xhea has hidden in skyscraper Edren, sheltered and attempting to heal. But soon even she must face the troubling truth that she might never walk again. Shai, ever faithful, has stayed by her side-but the ghost’s very presence has sent untold fortunes into Edren’s coffers and dangerously unbalanced the Lower City’s political balance.
War is brewing. Beyond Edren’s walls, the other skyscrapers have heard tell of the Radiant ghost and the power she holds; rumors, too, speak of the girl who sees ghosts who might be the key to controlling that power. Soon, assassins stalk the skyscrapers’ darkened corridors while armies gather in the streets. But Shai’s magic is not the only prize-nor the only power that could change everything. At last, Xhea begins to learn of her strange dark magic, and why even whispers of its presence are enough to make the Lower City elite tremble in fear.
Together, Xhea and Shai may have the power to stop a war-or become a weapon great enough to bring the City to its knees. That is, if the magic doesn’t destroy them first.
This stunning collection showcases 11 of Haldeman’s best stories. They range through time and space from planets beyond our wildest dreams to a nightmare future Earth all too close to home.
Lindsay and the Red City Blues: A story of revenge – with a heart-stopping twist in the tail.
Blood Brothers: A ‘Thieves World’ story.
You Can Never Go Back: A self-contained story from the original version of ‘The Forever War’, never before published in book form.
And ten more sharp and startling visions of tomorrow.
Earth’s last hope?
The Arc, a being of immense power, trapped within a continuum too small, fights for its freedom. Its monumental struggle will touch a few select individuals on Earth – and in doing so, change their lives forever. The Arc may also be the last hope for humanity’s survival.
Author’s Note: The volumes of this series can each be read independently of the others. The feature that unifies them is their individual observations of science fiction’s sub-genre: “space opera,” which the editors David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer define as “colorful, dramatic, large-scale science fiction adventure, competently and sometimes beautifully written, usually focused on a sympathetic, heroic central character and plot action, and usually set in the relatively distant future, and in space or on other worlds, characteristically optimistic in tone. It often deals with war, piracy, military virtues, and very large-scale action, large stakes.”