Friday, 5 October 2018

80,000 Totally Secure Passwords That No Hacker Would Ever Guess by Simon Petrie

80,000 Totally Secure Passwords That No Hacker Would Ever Guess by Simon Petrie is the most recent (unthemed) collection of his short stories. It's mostly reprints from various venues (including some from the authors previous two collections, which felt a bit odd, but perhaps isn't given that I think they're currently out of print) and story lengths range from flash fiction up to short novella.

Amorous space squids. Sentient fridges. A derelict alien spacecraft adrift within an interstellar cloud. Speed-dating zombies. The truth behind the extinction of the dinosaurs. A potentially lethal interasteroidal freight consignment. And a planet on which biological diversification has utterly failed to take hold in eight billion years.

My favourite stories in this collection were generally the longer, meatier ones. I quite liked "All the Colours of the Tomato", which is about semi-intelligent alien fauna and painting and radiation. But my favourite story was probably "The Thirty-First Element" which was a weird hard SF story that quite appealed to me. Short reviews of these and all the other stories are below, as usual. I have generally omitted reviews for flash stories (also as per usual), since these are difficult to properly review.

I did not reread all the stories in this collection that I had previously read. I have indicated the titles of stories I did read in bold below, but have also included the mini-reviews I wrote of the other stories the first time I read them. These aren't bolded and are instead italicised.

Overall, I recommend this collection to science fiction readers who are looking for a mix of series and silly stories. Fans of Petrie's work will find much to enjoy here, even if they've read the previous collections of his work (as I had). Some of the flash stories are groan-worthy shaggy dog stories, but if you can make it past that, there's much to enjoy here.


Product Warning — A very amusing introduction/warning about an explosive anti-piracy measure.

Introduction by Über-Professor Arrrrarrrgghl Schlurmpftxpftpfl — mildly amusing, but a bit wordy.

Jack Makes a Sale — Flash, which I may have read before...

All the Colours of the Tomato — An interesting premise and a long story to explore it. I had to read it over a few sittings but then, once some questions were answered in interesting ways, it felt like it ended a little abruptly. Still an interesting read, though.

Working Girl — Flash

The Fridge Whisperer — Hilarious. Writer attempts to write (what seems to be The Hitchhiker's a Guide to the Galaxy) while his fridge gains sentience and wreaks havoc. Awesome.

Running Lizard — A haunting story about a series of gruesome murders, a forensic psychologist who is also a were-creature, and her brother.

You Said ‘Two of Each’, Right? — Biblically amusing flash

The Speed of Heavy — An amusing space cargo caper involving an exchange student, some crickets and some bats. I lol'd.

Talking with Taniwha — A lovely and thoughtful hard SF story about learning to communicate with very alien aliens. I love the depth of world building and consideration that went into this one.

Half The Man - amusing flash

Tremble, Quivering Mortals, At My Resplendent Tentacularity — Another amusing flash, shaggy-dog stories though they are

The Assault Goes Ever On — Weird flash.

Dark Rendezvous — A space explorer comes across a derelict ship drifting in a favourable direction for rendezvous. Where did it come from? Ominous. I particularly liked the attention to dust particle detail in the nebulous setting of the story.

Podcast — Inadvertently stranded in an escape pod, trailing the main shop through hyperspace. Limited supplies and a broken hyperspace switch with only the pod's AI for company. A very enjoyable story. One of my favourites so far [in Difficult Second Album].

Must’ve Been While You Were Kissing Me — Zombie speed-dating noir shaggy dog story.

The Day of the Carrot — An amusing tale of giant vegetables. I liked the choices of authors for the interspersed pseudo quotes.

Latency — A really solid hard SF story. A research team on another planet studying it's only life form. Solid science, interesting concepts played with.

At the Dark Matter Zoo — an amusing poem.

Suckers for Love — Alien mating romance. An ultimately disconcerting story. Squidlike.

The Thirty-First Element — An excellent story that put me in mind of classic hard SF. Not because it was, shall we say, scientifically plausible, but because it took an idea and ran with it to an extreme conclusion. In space. It was interesting and contained some mystery (although the ending did not come as a surprise) and some light horror elements.

Against the Flow — A short nonsensical story with an eye-rolling shaggy-dog ending.

Reverse-Phase Astronomy as a Predictive Tool for Observational Astronomy — A very amusing story written in the format of a scientific article.

DragonBlog — The story of a dragon-slayer told in blog style. Amusing.

Niche — Flash. Lots of moths.

November 31st is World Peace Day — One of the longest stories in this collection, this one follows a woman who gets kidnapped by time travellers after a failed job interview. The kid appears haphazardly plan to hold the world to ransom using their time machine, but they didn’t count on our protagonist being smarter than them. An entertaining read written in a lighthearted style.

Mole of Stars — short flash. Probably better if you know what a mole is (it’s a chemical term meaning 6.02 x 1023 particles), but even so, a poignant end.

4 / 5 stars

First published: September 2018, self-published
Series: Not really
Format read: ePub eARC
Source: Author-provided review copy

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