There can be no doubt that former physicist Charles Sheffield is a master storyteller. He seamlessly weaves together complex science with compelling characters and plots, making these stories interesting and enjoyable to a range of readers from the technological expert to the average intellect. Sheffield also gives an added insight into the writing of his stories with a short afterword following each. In these afterwords, he discusses where his ideas and inspirations came from, allowing his readers an unusual glimpse into the writing process.
There is no central theme around which this collection revolves, but Sheffield focuses on investigating a range of human emotions and reactions against a backdrop of technology and varying worlds. In “The Bee’s Kiss,” Sheffield weaves together an alien encounter and a love story, building a world that is believable and characters with whom the readers sympathize. His knowledge of the biology of the Sphex wasp is twined subtly through the story’s development. Sheffield’s fascination with nanotechnology is also revealed in “The Bee’s Kiss” as well as in “Deep Safari.” In the latter, an expert in small game hunting (a nanotech game) must rescue a doctor beset by nanobots which he had a hand in inventing.
“Fifteen-Love on a Deadman’s Chest” is well worth mentioning, though perhaps a bit out of character from the rest of the collection, being a flagrantly humorous story. The story takes two lawyers searching for a stolen immortality drug to a funeral and a tennis tournament. Each ends up at the wrong event, however, and must carry off their obligations in spite of the mixup. With this story readers will find themselves laughing out loud.