Spectrum SF 5

A slightly delayed review, due partly to the review copy being lost in the post!

Bad Dream. John Christopher.

The second instalment of a ‘John Christopher’ novel. As I review short SF and don’t include serializations as short SF, I will press on…

Poppy Day. Michael Coney.

As with John Christoper, editor Paul Fraser brings us something from a British author who was a Big(ish) Name some time ago. I have fond memories of Coney as his ‘Hello Summer, Goodbye’ novel in the 1970s was a SF Book Club choice, and I can still remember, some 25 years later, the enjoyment I had in reading it in my early teens, and feeling a sense of achievement in now reading ‘grown-up’ novels, having until then read childrens/juvenile SF.

Recent I read Coney’s ‘The Sharks of Penreath’, a story from 1971, collected in a Donald A Wollheim Year’s Best collection, and enjoyed that also. Fraser introduces this new story as being part of a series of stories written during the 1970s set in ‘The Peninsula’. All of which gives rise to a little concern – is there a danger in dedicating so much content to ‘classic’ writers?

This story describes a rural English community, with some very bizarre genmod animals, including land-sharks. One of these beasts is in the process of attacking a young woman, who it transpires is the daughter of Daniel Westaway. The Poppy Day celebrations, involving the hallucinogenic scent of the flowers, form a background, and a key plot element, to the story, in which The Organization may be attempting to hide (and willing to go to some lengths) to avoid the truth getting out about Westaway’s daughter.

A neat little story, although with a definite feel of being part of a series.

The Angels of Life and Death. Eric Brown.

A regular Spectrum contributor, in which First Contact gives those with terminal illness a chance – or at least a choice. A well-handled, short first-person narrative.

Glacial. Alastair Reynolds.

Reynolds has had several stories appear in Interzone, including ‘Galactic North’, and ‘A Spy In Europa’, which have been collected by Gardner Dozois in recent annual collections, and ‘Hideway’ published last year. ‘Merlins Gun’ was published in Asimovs (May 2000) and ‘The Great Wall of Mars’ was published in Spectrum last year, and this story is a follow-up to ‘Great Wall of Mars’.

I’ve enjoyed all of the aforesaid stories with few reservations, so it with a bit of disappointment that I have to report being slightly less enthusiastic about this story. Whereas the others are uniformly quite inventive, far-future stories, this, whilst retaining a far-future setting, comes across as a more workmanlike story – a distant planet with a secret to be found, and a mystery to be solved. Still good, mind you, but more of an Analog story than, say, an Asimovs story, if you get my drift.

Conclusion

I may actually get round to reading the Christopher novel one day, and the three stories I would say are Quite Good. I have to point out here that I do rate against the highest possible standards – don’t expect glowing praise in every review! So, continued best of luck to Paul Fraser and Spectrum SF, but how long can it go on without accepting unsolicited manuscripts and with a still relatively small ‘stable’ of writers?

 

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