Book Review: Humans Wanted edited by Vivian Caethe

I’ve been really bad about reading books and watching movies lately and not posting reviews for either. I also ordered and purchased a lot of books recently so I’m hoping to start making a dent in the pile of books that I’m reading. Another book I read last week was Humans Wanted (science fiction 218 pages) edited by Vivian Caethe.

“Humans are tough. Humans can last days without food. Humans will walk for days on broken bones to get to safety. Humans will literally cut off bits of themselves if trapped by a disaster. You would be amazed what humans will do to survive. Or to ensure the survival of others they feel responsible for. If you’re hurt, if you’re trapped, if you need someone to fetch help? You really want a human. Twelve authors provide their perspective on human ingenuity and usefulness as we try to find our place among the start. From battletested to brokenhearted, humans are capable of amazing things. Humans Wanted shows not only what we are, but also how awesome we can be.”

One thing I’ve really liked about some of the anthologies I’ve read in the past was that each story in the anthology contained a tiny, one sentence summary of the story right at the beginning, which helped me get in the mindset of what I would be reading next. This anthology had such an eclectic collection of stories with so many imaginative aliens and cultures that it was a little jarring to go from one story to the next without a little transition about what to expect from the next story. A key thing to note about this anthology is that all of the stories are told from the perspectives of the aliens and not the perspectives of the humans in order to show us as the space orcs we are and exactly how weird humans are from alien perspectives.

Sidekick (21 pages) by Jody Lynn Nye. This story was one of my favorites in the anthology. The main character in this story is instantly relatable, as a young one fleeing captivity who encounters a very helpful human who wants to help her get home. I have witnessed and taken part in many random acts of kindness in my life and I’d like to hope that as we progress into space, our helpful and caring nature will be one of those things we carry with us throughout all our travels. One of the other things I really liked about this story was the nebulous nature of gender, both of the other aliens involved and of the human who works to help Tinis get home. Additionally, there are peacekeepers on the planet in the story and they have xi/xir pronouns, which I thought was a very neat and unique way of beginning to normalize gender neutral personal pronouns.

WWHD: What Would Humans Do? (20 pages) by J.A. Campbell. This was another of my favorite stories in the anthology, as it looked at how aliens could use positive aspects of human behavior to learn how to work together for a common cause.

Then There Was Ginny (11 pages) by Sydney Seay. I also liked this story quite a bit, as the writing style and tone was one of the easiest to read in the anthology. This was also another story that highlighted the best parts of humanity while still showing some of the things which make us extraordinarily odd in the eyes of aliens.

The Dowager (21 pages) by Richard A. Becker. This story was interesting from the perspective of a conquered planet and how humanity would adapt to no longer owning our own home. The story was creative but left me feeling at the end as though some part of whatever happens next was missing.

New Union Requirement (11 pages) by Gwendolynn Thomas. I was reminded heavily of the bureaucracy in the Douglas Adams books during this story, which amused me greatly. The use of pet names and such for other members of the crew was a very amusing part because of how often in my own life I rename things so that I can create easier memory links to certain things and it’s nice to see that I am not alone in my naming of things and people.

The Sound of His Footsteps (17 pages) by Mariah Southworth. I think this was the first story in the anthology which highlighted the survival aspect of humanity and just how far we can go, even in horrible conditions and when we’re injured. I really liked how Ciliaso/Liaso was so convinced that this was the end of everything and that they would be best suited to just accept their fate and yet, their human just kept going. I’m not really sure why that was so amusing to me, but it really was and I enjoyed that aspect of this story.

No Way This Could Go Wrong (21 pages) by Alex Pearl. This was another of my favorite stories in the anthology, as it used some of those aspects of culture which never really translate to successfully coordinate interstellar operations. I’m not going to give up the spoilers for this story but it was probably the most fun to read out of all of the stories in this anthology, though the compressed words of the Grzzh were a little hard to read at times.

Through the Never (16 pages) by Eneasz Brodski. This was not one of my favorite stories, though it was interesting to see the psychological impact of extended space travel on the psyche.

Human Engineering (15 pages) by Marie DesJardin. This was a really fun story and clearly showed how difficult it is to motivate humans to do anything by appealing to our “marketable” traits. The innovation and creativity often found in humans is something that can’t really be predicted or forced and this story really showed the motivations behind the better parts of humanity. I enjoyed this story and the manner in which it was presented.

Once Upon a Time There Was a Xurt Named Xcanda (18 pages) by Alex Acks. As much as this title is an absolute mouthful, the story is a really interesting cultural look at how communication across species is bound to have a lot of disjointed parts. I liked how this showed that humans don’t like just giving up on a problem and I was absolutely envious of the entire concept of being able to download cultures and languages into my head. I think that would be one of the single most useful things I could imagine as an additional skill.

A Second Zion (21 pages) by Amelia Kibbie. The mercenary aspect of this story was highly amusing to me, as was what felt like a combination of Farscape and Firefly because of the feel of the story in general. I also liked how the different species worked together as a mercenary team, each using their own strengths to compensate for the weaknesses of their team mates. I can easily see this kind of future for humanity amongst the stars.

Brightened Star, Ascending Dawn (18 pages) by A. Merc Rustad. This was another story I enjoyed quite a bit. It reminded me a bit of In Fury Born by David Weber and also the Brain and Brawn ships from The Crystal Singer Trilogy by Anne McCaffrey. It was a neat story and one of my favorites from this anthology.

Overall, this was a fun anthology and I’m glad I purchased it. Some of the authors have such interesting voices that I might investigate some of their other works or be on the look out for their names in the future. All the stories were definitely unique and I really enjoyed seeing humanity from the alien perspective.

Works cited: Caethe, Vivian (editor). Humans Wanted. Denver: Cuppatea Publications, 2017.

About C.A. Jacobs

Just another crazy person, masquerading as a writer.
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