What images would be conjured up if you were to contemplate
the end of time? Will it end with a resounding bang or a piteous
whimper? Well that's the challenge that was laid down by PARSEC
for their annual anthology of speculative fiction...
is always an innate problem in reviewing anthologies, given
the amount of stories on offer (in this case twenty). Some
will enthral you whilst others will leave you cold. This is
in part down to personal choice - after all the stories range
from grand universe spanning ideas to very personal stories
- and partly it is down to the individual skills of the authors
as story tellers.
anthology has some very nice facets. Each story is followed
with a little bit of blurb about each of the authors, and
for the majority this is accompanied by a photo. So if you
really hate the story you not only know where to find the
author but also what they look like. Stalkers of the world
will have a field day.
book (sick of the word anthology now) opens with Ian Creasey's
A Job for Life with a look at the problems which omnipotent
beings may have in finding gainful employment. It's a well
written piece and a good strong story to open with.
is Coming! By Dario Ciriello is one of my favourites if
only for the image of a flying America bulldozing everything
else in the world. Little is known if Ciriello means to draw
a parallel with America's foreign policy, but it's a nice
story that can be read either way.
and the Machine and Tim Pratt contemplates another sort
of ending - the ending of a relationship. His time travelling
story is as well written as you would expect from Pratt, even
though the trips back in time reminded me of The
Time Travellers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.
I thought the interaction between Morris and his younger wife
worked too well, but hey it's a short story, so we can forgive
Ain't a Mosey by Jeff Parish imagines a world reduced
to zombies from a single Indian's arrow. I'm sure that fans
of Zombie stories will enjoy this, but personally it felt
like a by the numbers affair, which neither added anything
to the genre nor granted enough surprises not to finish it
with an uninterested shrug. That's not to say that the story
is not well constructed, Parish writes well, but the story
could have done with a punchier ending.
by Idan Cohen is a very short story which looks at the theme
that not even the end of the world will stop lovers from getting
married. It's a short, sharp and amusing story.
Absolute Zero by Jetse de Vries pulls another, old as
the hills, idea out of the hat and does little with it. Rather
than build up to the revelation that we are all just part
of a larger computer program, de Vries wastes too much time
in salacious, and ultimately unnecessary sex scenes, leaving
the whole thing unsatisfactory.
Bridge by Michael Stone, at barely a page and a half long,
attempts to portray a looped narrative, a difficult thing
to achieve. Achieve it he does, but I felt that there was
something missing, a level of pathos, at the heart of the
story which did not allow the reader to either sympathise
or empathise with his character.
Tension by Kurt Kirchmeier and the anthology kicks back
into highly conceptual and compelling story writing, imagining
a level of reality outside of our own, whose beings depend
on the creation of universes to sustain their own existence.
Full of memorable imagery Kirchmeier is obviously a writer
to watch out for.
in an English Pub by D.K. Latta is more than a little
nihilistic in its outlook, as time travellers
nip back to kill artists, allowing the future to have something
to produce. Odd concept really, although the story is competently
written, it's a large concept to ask your audience to swallow
- that at some point in time human imagination will come to
a dead end. After all we've not run out of stories in the
last two thousand years.
Arrow is not your Enemy by Ashley Arnold is another time
travel story, though this time with a warning to the possible
consequences of this technology. Well written with a nice
injection of wit to carry the story forward.
we have Time by Matthew Johnson is one of the gems of
the anthology. Most of the stories have some form of reveal
at the end to either surprise or illuminate. Most do it well,
but Johnson pulls the reveal off perfectly with his story
of having to give your child back because you have run out
Watch by Rebecca W. Day imagines the world drowning under
the final storm. This is less of a sci-fi environmental story
as it is a fantasy. Well written and packed with earth mother
iconography it is an interesting vision of death and rebirth.
is the way the world Ends by Trent Walters imagines what
mankind will become if you could wake up in the year 4010.
It's another nice piece that does not feel that the end of
humanity, as we know it, has to be a bad thing.
by Scott Almes treads the same road as Harlan Ellison in his
imagining of a world destroyed by war and the lives of the
few survivors. Once more Defender is a well written
story with a nice twist at the end.
Age by Jessica E. Kaiser looks at the hunters becoming
the hunted. Personally I thought that the story didn't hang
together as well as some of the other stories, though the
ecological theme will be popular with many readers.
Shopping Cart People by Terry Hayman is just plain weird.
In his vision the world comes to an end in a small town after
an invasion of murderous shopping cart people, the disadvantaged
and dispossessed bite back in a very real way. I presume that
this story will find more resonance with Americans as I'm
not aware of a great many British tramps using shopping carts
as a opposed to bags. Still, it was a good concept with a
visceral level of fear and paranoia for you to enjoy.
Episode by Katherine Shaw is, on the surface, a straight
forward time travel story, with the nice twist that the traveller
has come from the past and not the future. This allows Shaw
to put in a lot of in-jokes for the audience, it also allows
her to finish the story in an unexpected but satisfying way.
the Belly of the Desert by Jared Axelrod, at two pages
long, is more of a snapshot of a man contemplating the end
of the world.
Kindly of our Fossils by Sue Burke extols resignation
in the face of extinction as one species dies so another will
rise. It is another short piece which also is more of a snapshot
than a full story.
but by no means least, we have Eshu and the Anthropic Principle
by Geoffrey Thorne, who imagines the lives of beings who are
capable of creating universes. This was another of my favourites
in the book as Thorne melds high concept with wit to create
a memorable story.
there we have it. At best some of the stories will stay with
you. Though there is a number of old concepts rehashed and
some stories are at best competent, overall it's a nicely