One thing first: Jews vs Aliens is not Steampunk, two of the stories in there fall, from what I can tell, into the Pulp Era and could be considered Dieselpunk but I primarily read the anthology for two reasons:
- The title alone…
- The anthology was curated and edited by my friend and favourite author Lavie Tidhar and Rebecca Levene
But now, on with the review:
I am not going to get into detail for every single story in there, since some of them are so short, any review would contain major spoilers. The stories are:
- “Antaius Floating in the Heavens Among the Stars” by Andrea Phillips
- “On the Matter of Meroz” by Rosanne Rabinowitz
- “Alien Thoughts” by Eric Kaplan
- “The Reluctant Jew” by Rachel Swirsky
- “To Serve… Breakfast” by Jay Caselberg
- “The Farm” by Elana Gomel
- “Don’t Blink” by Gon Ben Ari
- “Nameless and Shameless” by Lois H. Gresh
- “The Ghetto” by Matthue Roth
- “Excision” by Naomi Alderman
And they cover a wide range of styles and subject matters. Two of them (especially the firs one) made me laugh, some made me really interested in the Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism in general. Some (often the same) made me wonder what the historic experience of the Jews in the diaspora really was like, since most I know about it concerns the years from 1933-1945. Other stories in the anthology are highly esoteric and the aliens in there are very different from the ones more commonly encountered in science fiction.
All these factors make the anthology a very unique and highly entertaining, almost addictive read, even without the Jewish perspective. This perspective adds another cultural and in some of the stories mystic dimension to the tales which is used in different ways.
Sometimes, as I said, for comic effect (the stereotypical Jewish Über-mom in the very first story is great) sometimes to offer a different view on biblical tales (!), but almost every time the Jewish perspective enriches the reading experience.
This “almost every time” is the one thing I have to criticize: I think in two of the stories the fact that the protagonist is Jewish is just coincidental, the story would have worked just as well, if the background of the central character would have been anything else, the Jewish heritage here adds nothing to the plot. Still, those two stories were not badly written, either.
To sum up: Jews vs. Aliens is very different science fiction. The premise of the anthology makes it a very unique and intriguing reading experience one is unlikely to have had before, and every single story is rather good.
Eight out of ten Zeppelins
All proceeds of the sale of this anthology go to support the UK charity Mosac.