Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: 3 1/2 pints of blood
Since New Ceres is a unique mix of past and future, this is clearly what the cover art is aiming to convey, although the pastels are all kind of mixing together here when I look at it, so I can't really make much of it. I suppose neon wasn't very popular in the 1700s, but I wasn't aware they had such strange-looking shadows, either. Guess cover art is just a shiny new way to learn historical facts.
New Ceres Nights makes for an interesting anthology. All the stories are set in the same world under a creative commons license, where any writer (or artist) can freely tool around with the existing world and its concept.
New ceres is a world in our future, after space travel has enabled the development of other planets to sustain life. The people of New Ceres, though, want nothing to do with the technological advances of their time (and the morals that go with it) and have created an entire world where its occupants live in a society mimicking that of eighteenth century Earth's. Any technology developed after this point is illegal on the planet, and the citizens are expected to act and dress and live the part for as long as they're on New Ceres, which for most of them will be their entire lives. Even medicine and space travel is limited.
Of course, not everyone is content to live without the advances that make everyday life so much easier, and smugglers are everywhere, bringing contraband in to sell to the highest bidder. From androids to modern weapons to simple communication devices, the black market thrives in spite of the efforts of the Lumoscenti, the quasi-religious order devoted to keeping New Ceres in the eighteenth century.
If this sounds like all the stories are the same, just variations on a theme, that's actually not true at all. While they share the same setting, each explores different aspects, and the result is a surprising variety. (One of the stories is set in a pseudo-eighteenth century China, so it's not entirely Britishized.) Obviously I'm going to have my personal favourites, but these were all strong offerings, and set in an inspired order,to gently introduce readers to the world's quirks before they become important subtleties in later tales.
With the advantage of both the political intricacies of a historical setting and the imagination of futuristic science fiction, New Ceres Nights essentially gets the best of both worlds. While on the surface everything adheres to the eighteenth century society, the people who live in the world are more modern than that, and it shows, particularly in their (often unusual) relationships.
Twelfth Planet Press describes the collection as "thirteen exciting stories of rebellion, debauchery, decadence, subterfuge and murder set against the backdrop of powdered wigs, coffee houses, duels and balls," and I'm not sure I can sum it up any better than that.
New Ceres Nights is available in paperback directly from the publisher. Anyone wanting to try out the world of New Ceres first can check out issue 1 of the webzine, offered free online, with three new short stories available.