Matthew Hughes. Wearaway and Flambeau.
Featuring one evidently roguish wizard by the name of Raffalon.
Albert E. Cowdrey. Hartmut’s World.
Further adventures of paranormal investigators Morrie and Jimmy.
Kate Wilhelm. The Fullness of Time.
A lengthy novella that ultimately disappoints.
The setup is an intriguing one – a family blessed/cursed with foresight, who make the most of their narcoleptic visions of the near future to patent technology ahead of its time. An investigative journalist gets onto their trail, and in the guise of filming a documentary, a young man in the family escapes his minders for a day out with one of the investigative team.
Up to that point the story is fine, setting up an intriguing exploration of how the young man might escape the shackles of his family and his condition, and that condition itself. However, the story eschews that and becomes more like an episode of the 1970s TV version of Mission Impossible, where a bit of hi-tech gadgetry is used in an attempt to put the frighteners on one of the family, and a dramatic final shoot-out brings the story to an end, sweeping the sfnal elements under the carpet, rather than exploring them.
Eleanor Arnason. The Woman Who Fooled Death Five Times : a Hwarhath folk tale.
A short, cautionary tale.
Jeffrey Ford. A Natural History of Autumn.
Ford looks to the East for inspiration for a story that gradually reveals itself to be a horror story, in which all is not what it seems, and a night of passion in a remote retreat becomes a much darker affair, in which not everyone is whom they appear to be.
Michaele Jordan. Wizard.
Contemporary urban fantasy in which a young woman is drawn, irresistbly, to a tall, dark stranger who will take her away from her humdrum existence.
Ken Liu. Real Faces.
A rare story from Liu that disappoints. His stories are usually smart and subtle, whereas this feels rather clunky.
It explores the issue of affirmative action in employment, but chooses a sledgehammer approach – hi-tech masks that disguise the wearer’s face and voice, making employment interviews focus entirely on the content of the application, rather than the applicant’s race. Issues are discussed, but it feels more like a story written 50 years ago.
Matthew Johnson. The Afflicted.
Something for zombie fans to tide you over until series 3 of The Walking Dead appears on our screen. Here the slightly twist is that the affliction to which the title refers is one that creeps up on people in old age, and has led to old people, both infected and not yet infected, being decanted to FEMA camps, where a few brave medical staff try their best to look after their needs. The protagonist is a sort of combo of Ellen Ripley and Florence Nightingale, in a story that ends up with a tense drama bound to give flashbacks to those scary moments watching TV, or opening a door in Resident Evil and seeing what awaits behind….
Rachel Pollack. Jack Shade in the Forest of Souls.
Effective contemporary fantasy/horror which minded me of Stephen King (at least the stories/novels of his I read way back in the day). The titular Jack Shade, a man with several names, and some skeletons rattling in his cupboard, is interrupted when about to win a card hand, as his calling card has been picked up, and there is a client who needs his help.
The juxtaposition of the world in which we live, and the world on the other side, is handled nicely in terms of getting between the two, and a dramatic encounter at the cusp of the two worlds, in a department store, is a memorably one. Having completed the story, all is revealed about Jack, in what feels like to be part of a novel.
A good spread of fantasy and a touch of the horror, but not a huge amount for those of us primarily looking for SF.