Baxter packs a lot into a short space: a post-invasion Earth, with a conquered humanity greatly reduced in numbers and struggling to retain that humanity as the Qax systematically erase human history. Who is best placed to defend humanity – those working within the Qax system, or those outside it?
Baxter brings together two ex-lovers and cadre siblings (the Qax replacement for the family) now on opposite sides of the argument, the easier to air this debate, and infodumps about superheavy elements through one character refreshing her memory on that topic by reading some written notes.
Such clumsy devices left me feeling a little cheated, as if Baxter wished to get his ideas down as quickly as possible and was willing to use any means at his disposal so to do. The ending also has to rate as one of the speediest planet destructions in SF: Earth reduced to dust by nanobots in only 43 words.
Stealing Happy Hours. Paul Di Filippo.
A wedding reception with all the atmosphere of a wake; a party that is not swinging; social gatherings which have a dampener put upon them – what can be the cause? Or, rather, who can be the cause?
And once the true nature of the people involved is revealed…
The Marriage of Sky and Sea. Chris Beckett.
Clancy travels the galaxy, recording his First Contact planetary visits for the delectation of his avid book reading audience, very much in the style of BBC’s Michael Palin world tours- although one wonders whether so far in the future a vicarious public are likely to be so impressed with a purely written account.
Planetfall goes according to plan, and a race of fisherfolk offer some interesting content for Clancy’s latest ouevre, but nothing really gripping. Until, that is, a misunderstanding leads to a betrothal to one of the king’s (beautiful) daughters.
The Fire Eggs. Darrell Schweitzer.
The Fire Eggs appeared on Earth simultaneously, and have defied mankind’s attempts to study them in the decades since, with reaction to them varied.
Glenn visits a couple of elderly relatives – his aunt, in the final stages of terminal illness, has taken to spending long hours communing with the iridiscent eggs on their front lawn. Schweitzer deals with the pain of loss and the struggle to understand the unknowable with sensitivity.
Fly. Susan Beetlestone.
The dangers of virtual reality and losing touch with one’s self is explored through SpecOps staff who use immersive links with espionage tools such as flies – a remote virtuality rather than a virtual reality.
Loving Sancho. George Jenner.
Bestiality raises its ugly head, or, to be more accurate, it’s wet spaniel nose, in the pages of Interzone. The eponymous canine becomes inseperable from his owner, a couch potato addicted to TV tennis. But the dog years pass and Sancho passes away – can cyborgisation be an alternative to taxidermy, the fate of Sancho’s mantlepiece-dwelling mother? Asimov’s Robot stories were never like this!
The Prophecies at Newfane Asylum. Don Webb.
A touch of the eldritch horrors: a visitor relating the tale told by the inmate of an asylum in the days of colonial America. Dedicated to Ramsey Campbell.
- David Langford’s “Ansible Link”>
- Gary Westfahl looks at the relationship between SF and rock’n’roll (to less than usual effect IMHO)
- Tom Arden reviews Elizabeth Hand’s “Black Light”, Steve Beard’s “Digital Leatherette”, Kevin Teixeira’s “A Virtual Soul” and Storm Constantine’s “Sea Dragon Heir”.
- David Mathew reviews “999: New Stories of Horror and Suspense”, Jeff Vandermeer’s “The Hoegbottom Guide to The Early History of Ambergris by Duncan Shriek”, Peter Atkins’ “Wishmaster”.
- Chris Gilmore reviews Alan David Price’s “The Other Side of the Mirror”, Storm Constantine’s “The Thorn Boy”, and Tom Arden’s “Sultan of the Moon and Stars”
- Paul Beardsley reviews audio CDs/tapes: Philip Pullman’s “Northern Lights”, some Dr. Who stories, and the original Orson Welles radio production of War of the Worlds
- Tim Robins reviews a Liverpool University Press critical review of the works of Joanna Russ – Jeanne Cortiel’s Demand My Writing: Joanna Russ/Feminism/Science Fiction
- Paul Brazer reviews Michael Marshall’s “The Vaccinator”, Mark Clapham and Jon De Burgh Miller’s “Twilight of the Gods”, Ellen Datlow and Terry Windling’s “The Year;s Best Fantasy and Horror: Twelfth Annual Collection”, and Jim Courtenary Grimwood’s “redRobe”.
Seven stories – great value for money? Yes, all good stories, but with a mini-caveat that as all stories are on the short side there is a feeling similar to having eaten lots of canapes, but having had nothing substantial to eat. Certainly different to the substantial repast which those Interzone with the length, dense Richard Calder stories offer.