Disturbed Universes

By David L. Clements

Rating: 4 stars

I first encountered Dave Clements at SF conventions, and he quickly became someone to look out for on a panel or talk, being knowledgeable about SF and science, as his day job is as an astrophysicist. I started following him on Twitter and when I found his new collection of short stories just out in a convention dealers’ room, I grabbed it as a matter of course.

There are two non-fiction pieces in the book; in the first Clements talks about the life and work of an astrophysicist as he works half way up a mountain, in a low-oxygen environment. The second is about the experience of having a substantial chunk of your career sitting on top of a giant controlled explosion, being blasted into the sky. These are lovely insights into the life of a working scientist and are good to read.

As for the fiction, it was Clements’ future history stories that I enjoyed the most, although the opening story Re-Creation was an explosive way to open the collection. This tells the story of the rebirth of humanity in the distant future, by way of creatures of practically unlimited power, but which can still make mistakes.

It’s these sorts of far-future space opera that have been my bread and butter in science fiction for as long as I’ve been a reader and after that huge opener, we’re brought back to Earth with a bump as we have a few near-future stories where Clements explores some of the more salacious aspects of modern society, including seed patenting in Last of the Guerilla Gardeners and the excesses of bureaucracy in academia in Inquisition. In between there are Lovecraftian horror stories and multi-dimensional do-gooding. Then in the last set of stories at the end, we go back to future. These are all set in a single future history that spans millions of years and sees Humanity fighting a war across the ages. I loved these stories, which also managed to find the time to fit in the responsibility of uploaded humans to those left behind; the place of AI in human civilisation; and the politics of academia.

The little afterwords after each story by the author add to it and give us some insight into what sparked them or where they came from. There are lots of good stories here, recommended to anyone who likes a decent chunk of science in their science fiction. Written by someone at the coal face, these follow in the best traditions of Asimov, Clarke and other greats of the Golden Age, but with 21st century science.

Book details

ISBN: 9781910935101
Publisher: Newcon Press

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