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The Shadow Conspiracyby Laura Anne Gilman
All-new and never-before-seen, these stories
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The Shadow Conspiracy is a collection of stories set on alternative earth, a place powered by steam and magic. This world of dreamers, experimenters and engineers, soulless humans and ensouled machines was born of most unlikely parents: four poets who gathered one cold summer on the shores of Lake Geneva in 1816.
All-new and never-before-seen, these stories explore the unfolding consequences of that gathering — and how it changed everything we thought we knew about science and ourselves.
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The book opens with the story "The Accumulating Man" by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff. This story is set during the summer of 1816 - the famous summer where Mary Shelley began to write Frankenstein as part of Lord Byron's challenge to their group (Byron, Percy Shelley, Mary's stepsister, Claire, and John Polidori) to write ghost stories. It tells of a possible inspiration for Mary's Frankenstein story, as John Polidori builds a machine that he hopes will transfer a soul from one body to another. It is implied that Polidori is in love with Byron and is building this machine in the hopes of transferring Byron's soul out of his current body with its diseased mind and club foot into a perfect new one. This story sets the stage for the rest. As tends to be the case with most short story anthologies, some stories are more to my taste than others, I still loved how all of the stories were interconnected, even when it wasn't always obvious how they were connected until well into the story. The thread that tied them all together pulled me along and made me interested to see how the next story would fit into the bigger picture. It almost felt like reading a novel told from multiple viewpoints rather than a short story anthology. Polidori; Mary; Byron's daughter, Ada Lovelace; and Byron himself show up in different ways throughout the stories. The questions raised in the first story continue throughout the rest. What is a soul? Can a soul be transferred from one body to another? Can you transfer a soul into an automaton? Can automatons spontaneously create their own souls? I was intrigued enough by this collection to want to know more. I hope the second volume will continue where this one left off!