"Galactic Games" edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt.

“Galactic Games” edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt.

I have been waiting for Galactic Games to come out for over a year. Who wouldn’t want an anthology full of 20 different science fiction stories that feature sports (but not as we know it) as part of the main plot? Sounds interesting, right? It is.

Many different sports are represented here, from augmented gymnastics to American football, speedboat baseball to foot races, and shooting to survival games. There’s even a story about referees, and another about a game coordinator. The imagination shown in these stories is breathtaking. There are a few stories that have been previously published, but most of the stories are brand new.

Some of my favorites in Galactic Games include “Mars Court Rules” by Brad R. Torgersen, “Petra and the Blue Goo” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, “Green Moss River” by David Farland, and “For the Sake of the Game” by Gray Rinehart. Torgersen spins a tale about a teenage newcomer in “Mars Court Rules”. JayDee is a delinquent who gets a second chance when he goes to live with his aunt on Mars. I found JayDee to be very compelling, and I love how he learned the ropes from a friendly girl. This story tied for my favorite in the anthology.

In a scavenger hunt gone wrong, Petra is a librarian trying to defend her priceless books (and the library itself) from aliens in “Petra and the Blue Goo”. For anyone who loves books, this is a very compelling story, especially if you have ever had someone abuse your books. Filled with humor and action, this is a wonderful story. This was the other story that tied for my favorite.

Farland weaves a tale of a hardened soldier augmented with cybernetic implants pitted against strange antelope-like aliens in “Green Moss River”. As the story unfolds, Kember learns he hasn’t been given the whole story, and he has to make a hard decision that affects the lives of those aliens. I would love to have more stories about these characters. The story was touching and satisfying on multiple levels.

Referees are important, even if you don’t like their calls. Rinehart explores how difficult it might be as a referee on an alien world when arbitrating a game that powerful people want to fail. The referees and players, including the aliens, felt very real. Rinehart has a new fan.

A couple Galactic Games stories didn’t work for me. “Regulation”, by Seanan McGuire, was a rather depressing roller derby tale with characters that never really clicked for me. Perhaps it’s because I was never a roller derby fan? It wasn’t a bad story; it just didn’t work for me.

“Little Games”, by Mercedes Lackey, felt unfinished. There were moments of excitement during the race itself, but I never really liked the main character. It felt like the story was a chapter in a larger work, with important information not really shared. Maybe the story works for others, but it didn’t really work for me.

Overall, I really enjoyed this anthology. Most of the stories were very solid and enjoyable, and Galactic Games shows that Schmidt still has his touch when picking a good variety of great stories. I previously reviewed Beyond the Sun and Mission: Tomorrow, and this one is every bit as good as those. I strongly recommend it.

Contents:
   “With Fones” by Todd McCaffrey
   “Little Games” by Mercedes Lackey
   “Regulation” by Seanan McGuire
   “Earth, Corner Pocket” by Lezli Robyn
   “The Great Kladnar Race” by Randall Garrett and Robert Silverberg
   “Advantages” by Louise Marley
   “Louisville Slugger” by Jack C. Haldeman II
   “For the Sake of the Game” by Gray Rinehart
   “Shooter Ready” by Larry Correia
   “Minor Hockey Gods of Barstow Station” by Beth Cato
   “Pompoms and Circumstance” by Esther M. Friesner
   “The Olympian” by Mike Resnick
   “Petra and the Blue Goo” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
   “Green Moss River” by David Farland
   “The On-Deck Circle” by Gene Wolfe
   “Stress Cracks” by Anthony R. Cardno
   “Run to Starlight” by George R.R. Martin
   “Mars Court Rules” by Brad R. Torgersen
   “Last Shot, First Shot” by Dean Wesley Smith
   “The Great Ignorance Race” by Robert Reed

Release Date: June 7, 2016 (USA)
ISBNs: 1476781583 (9781476781587)
Publisher: Baen Books
Language: English

MySF Rating: Four point five stars
Family Friendliness: 100%

Content:

Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (brief social drinking, performance-enhancing drugs)
Language: 1 (mostly mild, brief deity, rare stronger)
Sexuality: 1 (very brief mentions in passing, nothing graphic)
Violence: 2 (some sports violence, bullying, mentions of blood, nothing graphic)