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Interzone 274

Paris Adrift cover

Interzone has been taking a wee break.

The next issue, no 274, is though, I believe, scheduled to be published in March.

In the meantime I have received a copy of Paris Adrift by E J Swift for review in that number. She is the author of a trilogy which I’m afraid I haven’t read.

I have sampled her shorter fiction though.

Reunion on Alpha Reticuli II by Eric Brown

Part Three: The Telemass Quartet, P S Publishing, 2016, 80 p.

 Reunion on Alpha Reticuli II cover

In this third instalment of Brown’s ‘Telemass Quartet’ Matt Hendrick is still following one step behind his ex-wife, Maatje, and the sleep pod containing his dead daughter Samantha, this time landing on the resort world of Tourmaline, now awaiting the imminent arrival of a starship despatched long before the days of telemass and whose inmates in suspended animation coldsleep are blissfully unaware of what will greet them. On landing he is rescued from the clutches of one (poor) telepath in Maatje’s employ by another (better) one not so encumbered. This is Mercury Velasquez, who volunteers her help in Hendrick’ s quest.

Unlike in the previous instalment the plot this time is more centred on Hendrick’s pursuit of his daughter. Maatje and her new lover Horvath have engaged the services of a Zuterainian effectuator. who may be able to restore Samantha to life. Velasquez’s telepathic ability reveals the dangers in the procedure. However, no full resolution is achieved (Part Four is still to come after all) and Maatje, Horvath and the insensate Samantha give him the slip again.

No weird religion this time but at least two types of strange alien to be going on with. If I have a criticism it is that the ending (involving arrival of the starship) is perhaps overly sentimental. But Brown has always emphasised human considerations.

Pedant’s corner:- In the cover – and internal – blurb; “all is not as it seems” (not all is as it seems.) Otherwise: “‘None of us like our private thoughts made public’” (ought to be “none of us likes”, but it was in dialogue, so may be true to the character,) an albino girl is described as having silver pupils (pupils? Not irises? And don’t albinos have pink irises anyway?) “‘pre-Telemass, pre-Expansion, prealmost everything we take for granted’” (to fit with the other two that should be pre-almost everything,) a missing comma at end of a speech quote, “‘Vizzek would have gone through the charade’” (through with the charade,) “‘Maatje’s might still be on’” (Maatje might still be on,) “‘I read you pain’” (your pain,) “Hendrick hitched himself onto high seat” (onto a high seat,) “him and his fellows humans” (him and his fellows; or, him and his fellow humans,) last line, difficultly (difficulty,) “he might have been able to accept it easier than” (‘he might have been able to accept it more easily than’ is the more natural form,) “Hendrick saw the saw the weapon” (only one ‘saw the’ needed,) “tears roll down her cheeks” (rolled.)
Time interval later count: 6 (though one was a sneaky “a little later”) plus one “minutes elapsed”.

Genetopia by Keith Brooke

Pyr, 2006, 303 p.

 Genetopia cover

We are long in the aftermath of The Fall, in a genetically unstable world. Traits can migrate from species to species, carried by plague and fever, or deliberately induced in the gennering vats. Humans can become Lost, animals be brought up from beasthood to a form of sentience. Those called Mutts have been bred to obey – to love – humans without question and carry out menial tasks; slavery by another name. Technology has regressed to that of muscle power only. In all of this, true humans strive to keep their bloodlines pure. People are judged on what can be divined of their breeding and different clans specialise in different occupations.

While Brooke occasionally uses other viewpoints our main window on this world is through Flintreco Eltarn, whose sister Amber (Amberline Treco) has been sold into Muttdom by their father who (suspicious of his wife Jeschka’s proclivities) has always thought of her as impure, one of the Lost. The book then takes the form of Flint’s quest to find Amber. Along the way Brooke has the opportunity to present various aspects of his imagined world where everything outside the familiar bounds of a person’s knowledge is dangerous, any transformation a frightening thing, all change harmful and corrupting. As well as in the gennering vats changing vectors may occur in unfamiliar plants and fruits – or even in familiar ones. Yet human nature it seems is perennial. Venality, concupiscence, love, fear, hate all make their appearance.

He finally encounters one of the Lost, whose changing he was complicit in bringing about, who tells him, “‘The last trump has wiped out most of True humankind. All of nature (was) engineered to defer to your kind. When you find your judgement, the world will be inherited by those who have embraced change,’” and, “To be human is to be fluid, unfixed. Humanity today is not what it was yesterday, and it is only the start of what it will be tomorrow…. Out here we are truly posthuman. To be changed is to be blessed.”

Genetopia is in some ways an odd book. Within that familiar quest structure (which it partly subverts at the end) it seems to both decry and advocate a change in humanity. Perhaps the biggest problem I had with it was that the profound ability for biological change felt out of place with the regression of other technology. Brooke is good on relationships though, if a little pessimistic here about the possibility of a kinder humanity.

Pedant’s corner:- “When a human baby shows signs of the taint, when it reveals itself as one of the Lost – it was taken and exposed on the Leaving Hill.” (“it was taken”; therefore “showed” and “revealed”,) “a series of wooden rungs were lashed” (a series was,) “they were easier tolerated than enslaved” (they were more easily tolerated,) bouyancy (buoyancy,) Taneyes’ (Taneyes’s,) “and it fit” (fitted, but it was a US publication,) “either side fringed by bamboo and tall rushes” (each side.)

New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

Orbit, 2017, 619 p.

 New York 2140 cover

Most Science Fiction deals with Physics or Biology, sometimes Chemistry, and not infrequently societal development. It rarely treats with Economics.

In New York 2140 Robinson explicitly considers that dismal science. I was going to say economics with the emphasis on the con. A con in two senses. It isn’t a science – it’s not falsifiable; or at least its adherents do not alter their models when faced with contrary evidence – and its assumptions are unrealistic (at the very least too simplistic.)

In Robinson’s scenario sea level has risen fifty feet after two great pulses of Antarctic ice melting, The lower lying parts of New York (along with many other coastal cities; though Robinson is not much concerned with them as his main readership will not be) have been submerged. Skyscrapers rear out of the water like the stumps of piers. Nevertheless people still live in the intertidal area – a diamond-like polymer waterproofs internal and external surfaces as much as possible though buildings more susceptible to rotting occasionally “melt” back into the water/silt. The city’s thoroughfares are now canals – a SuperVenice. Walkways suspended above the waters allow passage between buildings without taking to the waves.

Robinsons hangs his story on the inhabitants of the Met Life building and some of those who come in contact with them. Each succeeding section adopts the viewpoint of one or other of two computer coders called Mutt and Jeff (surnames Rosen and Muttchopf); Police Inspector Gen Octaviasdottir; a hedge fund manager called Franklin; the building’s main caretaker, Vlade; an unnamed citizen, who provides Robinson with the opportunity to dump information and history at will; Amelia Black, a broadcaster to the cloud from her airship Assisted Migration and whose principal attraction to her viewers seems to be shedding her clothes; building representative Charlotte Armstrong; and Stefan and Roberto, two orphan adventurers searching the waters for archaeological remains under the guidance of a Mr Hexter.

There are some nice touches such as the description of our species, with regard to its (lack of) response to warnings of global warming, as Homo sapiens oblivious and references like, “ This moment of the storm,” to delight the SF aficionados plus the nickname Amelia Errhard bestowed on Black due to her facility to make mistakes.

The initial plot seems to be about an offer to the inhabitants of the Met to take it over while at the same time subjecting the building to attack. The main set piece of the book is the huge hurricane that hits New York bringing down lots of buildings and the wider financial system. (Robinson’s main target here is economics after all, rather than global warming.)

Spoiler alert.

Robinson suggests that in the aftermath of this crash (the third big one in his timeline) government will finally take on the bankers and bend them to its will/the benefit of the people. He also posits the adoption by the US of a universal health care system. Now that really is Science Fiction.

Pedant’s corner:- no start quote when speech begins a chapter, squoze (for squeezed. Is squoze a USianism?) compos mentos (it’s compos mentis, but ut may have been the character misspelling for effect,) sordiditties (sordidities,) “have look around” (have a look around,) “and shined his lamp” (shone,) Friederichschafen (Friedeichshafen?) “they remain costumed as executives or baristas or USA casuals but always in costume” (costumed in costume? Hmmm,) “use to be” (used to be,) maw (a maw is not an opening, it’s a stomach!) “of saying You look like you would be good” … “aimed a look at Amelia, like, Don’t encourage him” (why omit the quotation marks?) “Their offices were a kid of shabby decrepit office located at” (offices…office within 7 words,) “Homo sapiens oblivious” (Homo Sapiens oblivious,) “if worse came to worst” (I know that formulation is more logical but I’ve always known the phrase as “if the worst came to the worst”,) “he had never been a wind over a hundred” (in a wind,) “avuncular, meaning “unclelike” in Latin” (no, avuncular means unclelike in English; it’s derived from the Latin for uncle.) “So she was getting reading to go to dinner” (ready to go to dinner,) “‘raft buildings on it to study it’” (to steady it.)

Best of 2017

Fifteen novels make it onto this year’s list of the best I’ve read in the calendar year. In order of reading they were:-

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet
A Man Lies Dreaming by Lavie Tidhar
The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan
The Stornoway Way by Kevin MacNeil
The Sea Road by Margaret Elphinstone
The Untouchable by John Banville
Swastika Night by Katherine Burdekin writing as Murray Constantine
Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfař
The Power by Naomi Alderman
Imagined Corners by Willa Muir
This is Memorial Device by David Keenan
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Kalpa Imperial by Angélica Gorodischer
Psychoraag by Suhayl Saadi

That’s six by women and nine by men. Six were SF or Fantasy, counting in The Underground Railroad, (seven if the Michael Chabon is included,) seven were by Scottish authors.

Birthday and Christmas 2017

As you may know my birthday falls on Christmas Eve.

This means I get presents two days in a row (then I have to wait a whole year to get any more.)

No complaints though.

These are some of the things my family gave me this year.

Science Fiction: A Literary History edited by Roger Luckhurst:-

Science Fiction: A LIterary History

Five 1960s SF paperbacks:-

Books for Christmas

Eight Keys to Eden by Mark Clifton
Blue Moon edited by Douglas Lindsay
Path Into the Unknown: The Best of Soviet SF
E Pluribus Unum by Theodore Sturgeon
Nine by Laumer

That cover of Blue Moon is so redolent of the time.

A box of postcards of covers from Penguin SF books. Front of box:-

Postcards of Penguin SF Book Covers

Reverse of box:-

Postcards of Penguin SF Book Covers

Kurt Vonnegut themed Christmas presents. “And Soap it Goes” plus “Breathmints of Champions.” This recognises the source of my use of “So it goes.”

Kurt Vonnegut Themed Christmas Presents

“And Soap it Goes” ingredients:-

Kurt Vonnegut Themed Soap

“Breathmints of Champions” ingredients:-

Kurt Vonnegut Mints

And last but not least, a 2016-17 Sons home shirt. Sadly it wasn’t a lucky one on Boxing Day.

Dumbarton FC Home Shirt 2016-17

The Massacre of Mankind by Stephen Baxter

A sequel to The War of the Worlds.

Gollancz, 2017, 464 p.

 The Massacre of Mankind cover

This sequel to H G Wells’s War of the Worlds is authorised by the H G Wells estate and in it, of course, the Martians return to Earth. Since in our timeline they did not ever come in the first place that makes this book an altered history. To make it correspond with the original Baxter has to employ early twentieth century cosmology and speculation as part of his story, in particular the supposedly superpowerful civilisation inhabiting Jupiter’s cloud banks.

Our narrator is Julie Elphinstone, sister-in-law of the narrator of the earlier book. Elphinstone is a journalist (divorced from her husband) and at the start of the novel is working in New York. Britain is under an authoritarian regime, astronomy is banned to the general public – apparently worldwide – but of course everyone expects the Martians to invade again at the next opposition. Elphinstone is invited back to England to hear from her brother-in-law of their imminent arrival.

This time they come in greater force, have adapted their tactics and gained immunity from the microbes that did for them before. Britain’s armed forces, though better prepared, still fight the last war and the Martians swiftly gain a foothold and press their advantage. Two years later landings take place all around the world, allowing Baxter to set more scenes in the US, but much of the book is taken up with how people in England adjust to life under the gaze of the Martians and efforts to strike back against them. Elphinstone becomes an unwitting agent of the government in its attempts to defeat the Martians in the same old way but is instrumental in invoking the power of the Jovians to rebuff the Martians – or at least to make them retreat to the Arctic.

All the familiar Wellsian touches recur, the heat-ray, the red weed, the Martians’ desire for the blood of their conquered foes. (I know this adds to the horror – and Baxter adds in some gruesome scenes to illustrate it – but it is extremely unlikely that human blood rather than flesh could be a prime food source. I find excessive harping on the efficacy of blood in magic rituals and the like, as here, risible.) Baxter makes more of the Cythrereans the Martians have brought from Venus than I remember Wells doing. A strange inconsistency was that despite the Martians targeting motorised transport it is still used later under their eyes.

Baxter’s use of a female narrator is, of course, a reflection of our times rather than Wells’s. In this regard the inclusion of the strongish female character Verity Bliss (who might once have been introduced solely as a love interest for Elphinstone’s former husband Frank Jenkins but actually has much more agency than that) is another nod to the twenty-first century. Baxter also references things about which Wells would have been ignorant, like the Schlieffen War – in the book still raging between the Empires of Germany and Russia – Craiglockhart Hospital, Porton Down, Stapledon, and Ataturk as an Ottoman representative. He has a certain RFC Lieutenant, William Leefe Robinson kill a Martian in an air attack on one of their machines and mentions Wells as the Year Million Man.

But I’m struggling to see the point. Did we need a sequel to War of the Worlds? Does it really tell us anything about ourselves now? Or is it about present day fears? As an illustration of the ills that plague us in Britain – and the Western world in general – I would have thought a story about unfeeling monied zombies bleeding us dry would be much more apposite.

I don’t blame Baxter for taking the project on; it’s an open goal after all and he does accomplish it rather well. And I suppose it’s entertaining enough.

Pedant’s corner:- I read an ARC (proof) so some of these may have been corrected in the final publication. Practise (as a noun, so practice,) “‘I am aware have called some of you’” (I am aware I have called some of you.) “Even the privileged few like myself who had advance warning of the new invasion, this coldly stated news, the reality officially confirmed, came as a dreadful shock.” (Even to the privileged few,) “meant for a comparative trickle commuting clerks,” (of commuting clerks.) “Frank already had an intuition that the percentage of survivors would be small, that the wounded they encountered from the periphery of the infall,” (that the wounded they encountered came from the periphery of the infall,) “Frank said as determinedly as we could” (as he could.) “‘But he’s had no time for his precious fishing that since he was called up for the reserves’” (no “that” required,) “as he was.,” (has an extraneous comma,) “my sister-in-had” (my sister-in-law had,) “the thousand-strong crew .” (should have no space between crew and the full stop,) scuttlebutt (a USian term, so an unlikely usage on a British warship in the 1920s,) Jenkins’ (Jenkins’s, which appears four lines later!) “the contents of the their kit-bags” (of their kit-bags,) “mirroring my own side by riddled with detail,” (mirroring my own side in being riddled with detail,) Ted Land (elsewhere always Ted Lane,) “‘That looks it came off a sewer.’” (That looks as if – or, That looks like – it came off a sewer’) “the next I remember I was lying in on green grass” (no “in”,) “sat on a low twig” (seated or sitting, but since it was a yellowhammer perhaps perched,) “‘I can always use an enthusiastic NCO’” (the British usage is “I could always do with an enthusiastic NCO”,) “supplies of antibiotics” (in the 1920s?) fit (fitted,) “we newcomers were been invited” (were invited; or, had been invited,) priel (prial,) an extraneous open quote mark, Chapter 23’s number and title were not in the larger font size of all the others, ”he based had his calculations” (he had based his calculations.) “Even now it’s hard to recall now” (has an extraneous now,) “”adjusting their positions, And Cherie saw them” (a full stop after positions or no capital A at and,) “from the gitgo” (isn’t it getgo?) “where the fires where” (where the fires were,) “had so nearly had befallen” (has one had too many.) “Straight after the Second War he plunged straight into the Basra conferences” (two straights in eight words.) “‘And he’s as careless of his health as ever he is,’” (as ever he was,) the earth (the Earth, many instances.)

Reading Scotland 2017

There are 36 books in this year’s list of my Scottish reading. (That’s three per month on average but I decided that in December I would not read anything Scottish at all.) 18 were written by men and 18 by women. 6 were SF or Fantasy, 3 were poetry, one was non-fiction.

Those in bold were in the Scotsman’s 20 Scottish Books Everyone Should Read. Those in italics were in the 100 best Scottish Books. The ones with an asterisk* were among Scotland’s favourite books.

Under the Skin by Michel Faber*
His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnett
Driftnet by Lin Anderson
The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett
Tamburlaine Must Die by Louise Welsh
The Bonniest Companie by Kathleen Jamie
The Return of John Macnab by Andrew Greig
The Ragged Man’s Complaint by James Robertson
The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan*
To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Waverley by Walter Scott
Divided City by Theresa Breslin
The Overhaul by Kathleen Jamie
The Stornoway Way by Kevin MacNeil
The Sea Road by Margaret Elphinstone
The Bull Calves by Naomi Mitchison
Garnethill by Denise Mina
*
44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith
Collected Poems by Carol Ann Duffy
Grace Notes by Bernard MacLaverty
The Missing by Andrew O’Hagan
Imagined Corners by Willa Muir
The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan
This is Memorial Device by David Keenan
The Magic Flute by Alan Spence
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle*
Pandaemonium by Christopher Brookmyre
The Revolution of Saint Jone by Lorna Mitchell
Psychoraag by Suhayl Saadi
Lilith by George MacDonald

Phantastes by George MacDonald
The Weatherhouse by Nan Shepherd
The Corporation Wars: Emergence by Ken MacLeod
The Wire in the Blood by Val McDermid*
The Golden Bough by James Frazer
Travel Light by Naomi Mitchison

Gráinne by Keith Roberts

Kerosina, 1985, 175 p.

Gráinne cover

A man lies in a hospital bed being asked questions. In answer he begins to tell his life story. It is a curiously detached process: he thinks of himself in the third person, referring to himself as Bevan. (In this Roberts may be utilising aspects of his own young life to flesh out his story – or carrying out a double bluff to make us think so. He used the name Alastair Bevan as an early pseudonym.) The man doesn’t name some of the characters from his early life, merely gives them titles; The Mother, The Headmaster. His early discomfort on dealing with women is well conveyed. Things change when he meets the enigmatic Gráinne, however, though to begin with he only worships her from afar. She is named for the mythical Irish princess.

Roberts’s prose is oblique, meaning is not immediately transparent, it has to be teased out by the reader. By the end, though, the process does become less opaque. The intercutting between “Bevan”’s reminiscences and his interlocutors is an important part of this. It highlights and comments on his tale, allows Roberts to ask the questions the reader might – and answer them. He tells his story in five “sessions” named Anuloma, Abhassara, Brahmacariya, Aranyaka and Upanishad respectively. These titles are not from Irish mythology but relate to Hindu customs and tales.

The Gráinne ‘Bevan’ remembers has aspects of a goddess, or an everywoman, and she has the gift of prophecy. “Right down through history religion had backed the state. She said the end result of money sticks” – some man had invented these centuries ago and things had gone downhill from then on – “was three World Wars. Two down and one to go. She said she wanted something to survive, But not a God. Or it would all start again.”

Some time after their relationship ends she lands a job as a TV presenter on Channel Five (a fifth UK TV channel was fictitious in 1985) and becomes famous. As part of a project she is working on she asks the advertising firm Bevan works for to devise a campaign for her, knowing he will have the idea she wants. The ramifications of her programme cause the authorities some problems and this is the ultimate reason for Bevan’s questioning. It is only at this point that aspects of SF creep in to the novel. In common with most of Roberts’s œuvre the whole, however, has an unsettling effect, always teetering on the borderline of the fantastic, as if Gráinne might have been a figment of ‘Bevan’’s imagination.

For Roberts completists this is a must though those unfamiliar with his work might be best to start with earlier novels.

Pedant’s corner:- I note “mike” as the abbreviation for microphone. Hurrah!
Otherwise; woffle (waffle,) Guy Fawkes’ night (I believe it’s just Guy Fawkes night; if it had an apostrophe it would have to be Guy Fawkes’s night,) staunched (stanched,) “an old tobacconists” (tobacconist’s,) “his Dad had given for his twenty-first” (had given him?) Fitzsimmons’ (Fitzsimmons’s,) Éirann (more usually Éireann,) verandah (I prefer veranda.) “He left the door stood open” (standing open,) “a line of men in saffron robes plod east” (a line plods.)

Europe in Winter by Dave Hutchinson

Solaris, 2016, 498 p. Reviewed for Interzone 267, Nov-Dec 2016.

 Europe in Winter cover

This third in Hutchinson’s Fractured Europe sequence of novels (previous knowledge of which is not necessary for reading this instalment) starts with a bang. Under the Urals a young couple blow up both themselves and a train in the tunnel belonging to the Trans-European Republic (aka the Line.) The significance of this, its ramifications, just who was responsible, do not become clear till much later.

Then, what at first seems merely a re-run of the “Hungarians trash the restaurant in Kraków” scene from Europe in Autumn leads to an encounter wherein chef Rudi meets an older version of himself. He is told, “You, and your entire world, are very, very sophisticated computer programs.” Not much later Rudi steps out from the restaurant and the wall behind him fades. The tone of this is of a piece with other scenes in Hutchinson’s trilogy. It is present here to introduce the idea that simulations of various futures are being run in the very secretive polity of Dresden-Neustadt in an attempt to realise a prediction engine. But that concept renders the scene problematic. Indications of unreliable narration are usually welcome, but this revelation verges on the dangerous for an author. How do we then have any faith in the depictions of all that follows?

Trust; and enjoy the roller-coaster. Rudi (what we must assume is the “real” Rudi,) an agent for the smuggling organisation known as Les Coureurs des Bois – a more or less essential organisation for those wishing to get things across Europe’s now innumerable borders – but here seemingly more free-lance, has a large part to play in the remainder of the book. His observation that, “Working in Intelligence is just a case of continually winging it,” neatly describes his approach but is probably more widely apposite. We are also reacquainted, from Europe at Midnight, with The Community, the parallel world created by the English Whitton-Whyte family who, “seem subsequently to have lost the knowledge of how to do it. Either it was lost, or stolen, or destroyed, no one knows, not here or in the Community. There are stories of a book of instructions, floating about somewhere, which tells how to map a new landscape over an old one.” Powerful, and dangerous, the Community had precipitated Europe’s ultra-Balkanisation by unleashing the Xian Flu before official contact was made with it. “There was no way to defend against an enemy who could walk across invisible borders anywhere on your territory whenever they wanted, while you were quite unable to retaliate.”

Hutchinson’s unravelling of the interactions between the (by now essentially former) EU – “The Schengen era was just an historical blip, an affectation” – the Community and an entity known as The Realm (up to something in Luxembourg) is never straightforward but always intriguing. He also finds time to comment on the proceedings. “It had been an eventful day; if he had ever been unsure of what the word infodump meant, he wasn’t now.” Despite the appearance of SF grace notes – stealth suits reduce you to a transparent patch of barely-roiling air, there are time dilation effects between the Community and Europe with even longer ones in a certain cottage by the sea, someone steals part of the Community, it in turn steals Heathrow – the overall treatment is less redolent of the genre. “A solid reliable fellow” is not common SF phraseology. And not many SF novels mention a spectacularly catastrophic bowel movement, or AJP Taylor or, indeed, deliver an amusing aside on the interrogation methods of TV detective Columbo. Other allusive touches include the punning chapter title “The Justified Ancients Of Muhu” and a character named László Viktor. Another character opines, “England is a constant pain in the arse; always whining, European only when it suits them.”

Rudi’s attempts to comprehend the convoluted relationships between the Realm, the Community, his father’s involvement in a billion-dollar trust fund, the murder of a Professor Mundt, the significance of a photograph of attendees at the Versailles Peace Conference and the importance of a group of mathematicians, topologists and cartographers known as the Sarkisian Collective are never oppressive. His discovery of just what his role in Les Coureurs des Bois actually is adds an ironic twist.

Europe in Winter’s essence is really that of a Cold War spy thriller – it even name checks Mutually Assured Destruction – but in SF terms it does not add much to the two previous novels. It’s a good, excellently written Cold War spy thriller; but one nonetheless. That, though, is a strength. When a novel deals with an organisation which is capable of rewriting worlds, that looking-glass, nothing is quite what it seems ambience may be the only suitable medium. Hutchinson executes it superbly.

The following did not appear in the published review:-

Pedant’s corner. (Some of these may have been amended since the proofs):- mediaeval (Hurrah!) but…. none were (none was,) “at one point” occurred in one sentence which was followed only two lines later by a sentence which started with, “At one point,” avis (the context suggests axis rather than a bird,) three-d is an odd contraction, it’s usually 3-d or 3d, would at very least (at the very least,) the crew were prepping (the crew was,) metropoli (metropolis is Greek in origin; so the plural is metropoles,) Seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries (if you capitalise Seventeenth and Eighteenth so also should you Centuries,) Polish Border Security were famously savvy (Polish Border Security was,) broke branches off nearby trees to conceal it with (doesn’t need the with,) “with a passport in either hand” (in each hand,) again a chapter number appeared at the very bottom of a page. “Facing them were the Community delegation” (was,) cats-cradle (cat’s-cradle,) in an dialect (in a dialect,) a missing full stop, cammo dudes (two lines later is camo dudes,) off of (no of required,) miasm (miasma,) Forsythe (Forsyth,) on either side (on each side,) “she watched a wild boar sow and half a dozen piglets” (wild boar, sow and…) Tipped his/her head to one side (a Hutchinson tic.)

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