BooksOfTheMoon

Stories of Hope and Wonder

By Ian Whates

Rating: 4 stars

This collection follows in the footsteps of Flotation Device: A Charity Anthology in being pulled together quickly near the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in order to raise money for the NHS in the UK. Floatation Device was the local effort of the Glasgow SF Writers’ Circle, while this was edited by Ian Whates of NewCon Press so has access to a much larger range of writers. There are over fifty stories here, comprising nearly a quarter of a million words. In all that, there are bound to be some that work better for an individual taste than others.

There are stories from across genres: lit-fic, SF, fantasy, horror and more. I’m not really a horror fan so those didn’t really work for me, but there were more than enough others to make up for it. There are stories from well-known names including Stephen Baxter, Christopher Priest, Tade Thomson, Lauren Beukes, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Peter F. Hamilton and many, many more. It’s hard to pick out individual stories in such a large collection, read over so long, but I really enjoyed Tchaikovsky’s Wars of Worldcraft (the pun in the title along endeared it to me) and Ian McDonald’s An Eligible Boy, set in the same world as his novel River of Gods.

So if a story doesn’t work for you, just move on, it’s not not like you’re short on choice. And it’s for a good cause.

Book details

Publisher: NewCon Press
Year of publication: 2020

Now We Are Ten

By Ian Whates

Rating: 4 stars

I don’t usually buy books based on the publisher, but NewCon is very much The Little Press That Could, and 10 years of success seemed worth celebrating, especially when they got a pretty good set of writers together for the anniversary collection. Right, from the start, this is a strong collection with a story from Genevieve Cogman that does not go how you’d expect from the author of The Invisible Library series. Ian McDonald’s Women’s Christmas is a nice slice of life, with an SF background and good characterisation in a small space while Nancy Kress’s Pyramid has you wondering all the way through until the final reveal and suddenly you have to go back and read the whole thing again, in a new light.

The rest of the collection is mostly just as strong. I must confess that I didn’t really get Rachel Armstrong’s Zanzarra Island or Jack Skillingstead’s Licorice, but other highlights for me were Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Dress Rehersal (with a neat conceit and a great last line); Peter F. Hamilton|25375’s Ten Love Songs to Change the Word, which left me with a lump in my throat; and E. J. Swift’s Front Row Seats to the End of the World, about redemption and love at the end of days.

So a strong collection and here’s to another ten, and more, years of a great wee press!

Book details

ISBN: 9781910935194
Publisher: Newcon Press

Fables from the Fountain

By Ian Whates

Rating: 4 stars

I’m a fan of the sort of rambling shaggy dog story that Arthur C. Clarke told very well in Tales from the White Hart and loved this tribute to that. Ian Whates has assembled quite the collection of authors to contribute to his anthology, all of whom were as fond of those old stories as I am. The stories themselves range from very White Hart-ian shaggy dog stories, complete with puntastic punchlines to more horrific fare to good old fashioned super-science SF. I would have liked to see more women involved, although Liz Williams’ story is fun (and gives some back story to barmaid Bogna).

My favourite stories were probably Stephen Baxter’s Transients which tells of a stranger brought into the usual group at the Fountain who tells a very particular story, before disappearing again; A Bird in the Hand by Charles Stross, which brings some women to the group and is one of shaggier dog stories in the collection; Book Wurms by Andy West about strange things lurking inside books and the strangers who tend them; and The 9,000,000,001st Name of God by Adam Roberts, riffing off the famous Clarke story.

If you’re a fan of the White Hart or Callahan’s or any other of those sorts of collections, you’ll enjoy this one a lot (and I’d certainly like to stop there for a drink, although perhaps avoid the ploughman’s).

Book details

ISBN: 9781907069239
Publisher: Newcon Press
Year of publication: 2011

Solaris Rising: The New Solaris Book of Science Fiction

By Ian Whates

Rating: 4 stars

Of the 19 stories in this collection, I loved some, liked most of them and only disliked two or three. That’s a pretty good hit rate for the collection. Unfortunately, the misses for me were some of the big names: I completely failed to get Tricia Sullivan’s The One That Got Away and Pat Catigan’s You Never Know just perplexed me. But on the up side, I adored Keith Brooke and Eric Brown’s Eternity’s Children about a man wracked with guilt as he goes to destroy a colony’s entire way of life; Alistair Reynolds For the Ages, telling of possibly the most audacious plan in the history of Humanity; and Peter F. Hamilton’s very playful, and metafictional, Return of the Mutant Worms about a former SF author whose past comes back to haunt him.

As as well as these gems, Ian McDonald’s A Smart Well-Mannered Uprising of the Dead, Paul de Fillippo’s Sweet Spots and Jaine Fenn’s Dreaming Towers, Silent Mansions are all worthy of more than just namechecks (which is, due to terminal laziness on the part of the reviewer, all they’re getting).

A rather fine collection with a lot of stories worth dipping into.

Book details

ISBN: 9781907992087
Publisher: Solaris
Year of publication: 2011

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