My rating: 2 of 5 stars
One of the earliest things I noticed was that getting an author to edit an anthology is evidently a poor idea. Ms Kowal, throughout her additions and introductions, deeply needed an editor of her own.
The stories themselves varied. Since it is an anthology, reviewing it en masse seems inappropriate.
Instead, I shall offer brief thoughts on each story:
“Pride and Prometheus” — original, decently compelling, and certainly reminiscent of Mary Shelley to some degree, though not stylistically (I have read aught of Jane Austen, whence I suspect Mr. Kessel got his stylistic appropriations).
“26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss” — clever; cute, but not in a bad way; kept me reading, kept me interested, but ultimately, the big reveal was less wowing and quite… acceptable.
“The Erdmann Nexus” — an interesting take on psychological evolution and human nature; yet another story detailing how humanity is different from the rest of the universe due to our barbarism, but offers an intriguing juxtaposition with our capacity for growth.
“From Babel’s Fall’n Glory We Fled” — engaging; an appropriate, clever, intermediate evolutionary tale of humankind, beyond the immediacy of “The Erdmann Nexus,” but not so far as “The Tear,” even if the ending is unsatisfying.
“Shoggoths in Bloom” — interesting enough, I suppose, but I’ve never really been a Lovecraft fan, so I was not as captured by the story as I’m sure some would be; also, Ms Kowal informing me what an amazing, incredible writer Ms Bear was in her introduction didn’t do Ms Bear any favors.
“Truth” — foreboding and clever, I suppose, but I saw the ending coming from a few miles away and the author’s political editorializing took the great potential of this story and trivialized it, turning something that could have been really ingenious into something little more adept than a caricature drawing of a man with a large nose and large ears choking on a pretzel.
“The Ray-Gun: A Love Story” — fun style, clever plot, appropriate (if a bit overused) comparison between human and alien ideas, and I didn’t personally appreciate the sensual elements, but I can understand how others can relate to them, keeping this story among the three best in this anthology, in my opinion.
“Evil Robot Monkey” — this very short story ultimately seemed pointless; unless there is evidenced here some personal retelling for the author (also the editor of the anthology), I don’t see much purpose beyond an explanation that hyperintelligent chimpanzees would fit neither into human nor chimp society. Honestly, I found her introduction to her own work more enjoyable than the story itself.
“The Tear” — certainly an inventive approach to human evolution, but so far removed from the original article that comparison is relegated to the reader’s own task; the author seems content to be imaginative and ethereal; unlike “Babel” above, “The Tear” is so distant from present human nature that I was immediately bored and never found any redeeming qualities in a character study of an utterly alien society.
The TL;DR version: the Skilled: Kessel, Johnson, Kress, Swanwick, Reed, Gardner; the Uninteresting: Bear, Kowal, McDonald; the Pleasant: Johnson, Gardner; the Unsatisfying: Swanwick, Reed, Kowal, McDonald.