A Cosmic Christmas 2 You is the second in the Cosmic Christmas anthology series edited by Hank Davis, containing thirteen more stories which happen around Christmas or are somehow related to Christmas.
This time around, Davis treated us to several authors new to the series, as well as a few returning authors. I was extremely entertained by most of the stories, with my favorites being the entries from Joe Haldeman, Allen Steele, and Frederick Pohl.
“Angel of Light”, the entry from Joe Haldeman and the first story in the book, gives a future story set in a city controlled by a mixed Islamic-Christian religion called “Chrislam”. He gives us hints of the outside world being significantly different than that in the city, but does so without revealing too many details. Too often in science fiction, religion is treated poorly, as some sort of stupid or irrational belief system which flies in the face of “real science”. This is not the case here, where the beliefs of the protagonist are not mocked by the author. This was very refreshing.
Allen Steele’s entry, “Zwarte Piet’s Tale”, is set on a distant future Mars where the protagonist and his friend decide to establish a new tradition of Sinterklass and Zwarte Piet, taken from the Dutch traditions of old Earth, and transform them into something Martian children will enjoy and to which they will look forward each Martian year. The interaction between these two is wonderful and made me excited for the future.
Grand Master Frederick Pohl gives us a satire of merchandising and marketing gone wild in “Happy Birthday, Dear Jesus”. The protagonist, George, is a manager in the shipping department at a major department store, where they do 90% of their business during the Christmas season. His new hire, Lilymary, throws a wrench in his smooth-running packaging machine when she requires that she have evenings and Sundays off, no exceptions. She’s also stolen his heart, and he has to wrestle within himself about what to do when his work and newly-found personal life start clashing. Pohl handled this story masterfully, and this is my favorite story in the collection.
There were a couple stories in A Cosmic Christmas 2 You which didn’t really strike my fancy. Wen Spencer’s “Away in a Manger” was an odd little offering where the main characters are not what they appear at first glance. Spencer also uses Japanese in strange ways which don’t really make sense, though I suspect most people reading the story won’t grasp where the Japanese is used incorrectly. This threw a wrench into my enjoyment of the story, taking me out of the flow, so to speak. It was well written, however.
S.N. Dyer returns with “Space Aliens Saved My Marriage”, set in a world where everything you read in the tabloids actually does happen. While it is a fun premise on the surface, it got old for me after a while, even though the story was generally enjoyable all the way through. It felt to me like everyone was jumping the shark multiple times, until it lost the shininess it had at the beginning.
As with the last collection, even the stories which didn’t quite click for me were still enjoyable, and A Cosmic Christmas 2 You would be a welcome addition to the library of any fan of short science fiction. So get all bundled up by the fireplace with your favorite seasonal beverage. I strongly recommend it as a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend some time.
List of Stories:
“Introduction: The Shape of Christmases to Come” by Hank Davis
“Angel of Light” by Joe Haldeman
“And to All a Good Night” by Tony Daniel
“Christmas Card” by Connie Willis
“Away in a Manger” by Wen Spencer
“Happy Birthday, Dear Jesus” by Frederick Pohl
“Shepherds and Wolves” by Sarah A. Hoyt
“In the Spirit of Christmas” by Tee Morris
“Wormhole Magic” by Marianne Plumridge
“A Christmas in Amber” by Scott William Carter
“Space Aliens Saved My Marriage” by S.N. Dyer
“Zwarte Piet’s Tale” by Allen Steele
“How Thorvald the Bloody-Minded Saved Christmas” by Esther Friesner
“Julian: A Christmas Story” by Robert Charles Wilson
Release Date: November 5, 2013 (USA)
ISBNs: 1451639422 (9781451639421)
Publisher: Baen Books
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (occasional social drinking or smoking)
Language: 1 (minor)
Sexuality: 1 (minor mentions)
Violence: 1 (minor)