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Interzone 292-293 Arrives

Interzone 292-293 cover

The latest double issue of Interzone has fallen onto my doormat. It will be the last under the stewardship of Andy Cox.

From the next issue on it will be edited by Gareth Jelley and published by MYY Press in Wroclaw.

There are no fiction reviews in Iz 292-293 but in his editorial Mr Jelley says there will be in the new incarnation.

Lovely SF Colour Endpapers From 1950s

I can’t remember where I bought my hardback copy of Son of the Stars by Raymond F Jones (Hutchinson & Company, London, 1952?) but I did so mainly due to the excellent endpapers.

Aren’t they lovely? So of their time. They remind me a bit of Robot Archie from the British weekly comic Lion and of course Robby from the film Forbidden Planet:-

Colour Endpapers

The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal

Solaris, 2020, 687 p; plus v p Acknowledgements, vii p About the History, and ii p Bibliography.

This is the third full-length novel in Kowal’s “Lady Astronaut” series, whose history differs from ours since a meteor plunged into the sea off the North American coast in the early 1950s. A runaway greenhouse effect caused by the water vapour the impact delivered into the atmosphere means Earth will become too hot for humans to survive and an accelerated space programme has been undertaken to colonise a new home in time to save at least some of humanity. The timeline of The Relentless Moon in the main parallels that of the second book in the series, The Fated Sky. I reviewed the first two instalments here and here. Unlike in those, here the focus (and our narrator) is not the Lady Astronaut Elma York, nor indeed her husband, Nathaniel. Instead, it is another of the first six female astronauts, Nicole Wargin, married to Governor Kenneth Wargin of Kansas, who as the book starts is about to announce his candidacy for President of the US. Nicole’s life is complicated by the fact she is married to a politician but that has meant she has developed coping strategies for social situations. However, she also suffers from anorexia, which dogs her throughout the book. Wargin is noticeably less coy about sexual matters than Elma York was but still indulges in some laboured allusions to them.

The space programme is opposed by a faction calling itself ‘Earth First’ whose adherents believe that the space programme money is being spent unwisely while there are people struggling or suffering on Earth in the here and now and many will never benefit from it. This opposition has become an active sabotage campaign in the hope that if the programme is seen to be failing it will be abandoned. What in turn this means is that some people involved in the project, on the Mars trip with the Lady Astronaut, but more germane here, in mission control, in the communications department and even on the base constructed on the Moon. The powers that be have dubbed this subversive activity Icarus and most of the novel is devoted to the various acts of minor sabotage Icarus carries out and the attempt to unmask the identity of the culprit(s.)

This involves plenty of incident and jeopardy plus various agonies of suspicion. A variant from our time is that, due to the meteor, vaccinations for polio have not been administered widely. The introduction of the disease to the Moon base (presumed to be by Icarus) gives ample scope for Kowal to remind us of its potentially devastating effects. She is also at pains to emphasise that the racism and sexism of the times would in no way have been ameliorated by a shared purpose or peril. In particular that the women astronauts have to show no weakness in order to be respected.

Grace notes are supplied with the dropping in of the names of astronauts from our timeline (Chaffee, Aldrin, Lovell,) astronauts who have only incidental roles in this story.

This is good, solid, undemanding Science Fiction of the old school, tinged with a modern sensibility. Whether it is good enough to merit the awards the series has gathered is another question. I enjoyed the ride though.

Pedant’s corner:- “a sixteen-year-old Abelour” [Scotch] (the whisky is called Aberlour. And Kowal had scotch in lower case,) cannister (canister,) “had learned English from a Brit so always said things like ‘Leftenant.’ It sounded like an affectation every time” (What, instead of sounding like a poor speaker of French? [It’s li-oo-, not loo-, and ‘tenong’ not tenant,]) “propellent to sublimate off the surface” (propellant to sublime off the surface,) “none of them were up here” (none of them was,) grill (grille,) “the chances …. was slim” (either, ‘the chance,’ or, ‘were slim’.) “None of them were trying to help me” (None of them was trying,) “the rachet handle” (ratchet, spelled correctly later,) “to let threm know the sound it was man-made” (the sound was man-made.) “‘Hey. I represent that remark’” (‘I resent that remark,’) “all the minutia” (‘all’ implies plural, hence ‘all the minutiae’.) “None of them were paying attention” (None of them was paying attention.)

One more for ParSec

Best of British SF 2021 cover

Another gift from Parsec digital SF magazine has landed on my doormat; Best of British Science Fiction 2021 edited by Donna Scott.

I reviewed Best of British Science Fiction 2020, also edited by Donna Scott, for ParSec 2 and will be posting that review here soon.

ParSec 4

 ParSec 4 cover

Yes, the fourth edition of online SF magazine ParSec has been published. See details here.

Among its many other delights issue 4 contains my reviews of The Carnival of Ash by Tom Beckerlegge, The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson and the new anthology tribute to cyberpunk Night, Rain, and Neon edited by Michael Cobley.

Elysium Fire by Alastair Reynolds

Gollancz, 2018, 410 p.

The Glitter Band is an extensive collection of space habitats in orbit around the ochre and mustard clouded world of Yellowstone, forming a ring girdling the planet. It is an extensive democracy; votes being carried out in real time across the system due to a set of implants in people’s brains invented by Sandra Voi. The integrity of the system and its laws is watched over by a police force known as Panoply, administered by agents called Prefects. Their instrument of control is a device called a whiphound; semi-autonomous, sinuating AI creatures. This is the second of Reynolds’s novels featuring Prefect Tom Dreyfus, the first of which I reviewed here.

The immediate threat to public order here is a disease which Panoply has named wildfire, where people’s brains suddenly melt for no apparent reason. The occurrence of these deaths is on an exponential trajectory and there is no noticeable link connecting the victims. A secondary concern is the tendency of some of the habitats to seek independence from the rest of the Glitter Band. In this regard the activities of rabble-rousing populist Devon Garlin, making speeches contending that Panoply is a malign force, overbearing but at the same time unable to protect its citizens, who should therefore free themselves from its shackles.

Another strand features the adolescent brothers Julius and Caleb, being trained by Marlon and Aliya Voi to shape quickmatter and carry on the family tradition of safeguarding the Glitter Band’s democracy by subtly manipulating its data flows in undetectable ways. This is not a clear-cut process. The boys have recurring dreams of a massacre and their relationship to Marlon and Aliya is not as straightforward as they think.

In his investigations Dreyfus interrogates the beta-levels of wildfire’s victims. These are computer-held simulations of dead people’s brains, containing their memories. A strange white tree-like structure whose image appears in some of the victims’ backgrounds, along with the help of a shadowy character named Aurora who is able to communicate directly with Dreyfus but whose bargain with him Panoply would regard as treason leads him to a place named Elysium Heights, where the novel’s connections begin to untangle.

Aurora and her antagonist the Clockmaker both featured in that earlier novel, The Prefect, but the latter makes no appearance in this novel. Clearly there is more Reynolds intends to explore in his scenario.

Plenty of plot, then and also plenty of incident. Reynolds spins his yarn with facility. There’s certainly less well written and plotted Science Fiction knocking about.

Pedant’s corner:- The copy I read was an ARC (proof) so some of these may have been corrected before publication; “but even the tiniest of worlds might lay temporary claim to a ring system, if a moon or asteroid fell into their gravity well” (its gravity well,) epicentre (centre.) “‘In time you be privy’” (you may be privy.) “‘There doctor isn’t here’” (Their doctor.) “‘I I’ve had a lot of practice’” (has a superfluous ‘I’ at the start,) “laying over” (this really ought to be ‘lying over’,) “a note of insubordinance” (insubordination,) focussed (focused,) a missing comma before a piece of direct speech (x 2,) candelabra (used as singular; that’s a candelabrum.) “‘He doubt he was even aware’” (We doubt he was..,) Fuxin- Nymburk (elsewhere Fuxin-Nymburk,) a paragraph break in the middle of a sentence (x 2,) “‘the scale necessary to affect change’” (to effect change.) “He felt as if was being made to” (as if he was being made to.) “It was a like taking” (omit the ‘a’,) rabble-rowsing (rabble-rousing,) “None of the elevators were operational” (none …. was operational,) “‘tell them the specialists’” (omit ‘them’.) “Doctor Stasov emerged sooner after” (soon after,) “but now he decided to keep it to himself, at least for now” (has one ‘now’ too many,) unmistakeable (unmistakable.) “Malkmus twisted around to speak of them” (to speak to them,) “to offer more than a token effect” (token effort makes more sense,) “walking to a halt” (coming to a halt, surely?) “‘Only a few days I was beaten up’” (a few days ago I was,) a missing opening quotation mark. “The overgrowth had had only managed to push its tendrils” (only one ‘had’ needed,) “seemed to take this as challenge” (as a challenge,) “its arms dangling at its side” (sides.) “‘If one of us decided to withdrew’” (either ‘If one of us withdrew’ or ‘If one of us decided to withdraw’,) “each brother was using every means at their disposal” (at his disposal.) “‘It’s may be time’” (either ‘It’s maybe time’ or ‘It may be time’,) “had long ago learned recognise and trust” (learned to recognise.) “‘I told you she was in good hands, didn’t?’” (didn’t I?) “on at a time” (one at a time,) staunch (stanch,) “as he took into the bloody tableau” (as he took in,) “allowing to Lethe to rotate” (allowing Lethe to rotate,) sprung (sprang,) “‘whether you want to admit or not’” (to admit it or not.) “But a single shudder of ran through Marlon” (shudder of ??? Grief is the most plausible word missing,) “off-hand facility with quickmatter than any wealthy son might have had” (that any wealthy son) “who isn’t afraid the embrace the truth” (to embrace,) “almost as if were reaching into” (almost as if he were,) “as if were” (as if we were.)

Breathmoss and other exhalations by Ian R MacLeod

Golden Gryphon Press, 2004, 315 p, plus iip Introduction, Big Lies, by the author. First published 1972.

In his introduction to this collection MacLeod says that works of fiction are complex lies and if you’re going to do it well you really ought not to stick to realism so much as make your lies as big as possible in order for readers to recognise something they’ve known all along.

In this book MacLeod’s lies are profound, considered, and each has a sense of inevitability about it, a revealed truth if you like. Not one of them is disappointing in any way.

Title story Breathmoss is set on the planet Habara where men are an extreme rarity – as they are in wider galactic society. Jalila was brought up in the high mountains by her three mothers (only one of them biologically so.) Gateways between the stars allow travel to other worlds in ships piloted by a chosen few tariquas.

The first action of the novella follows Jalila’s journey down from the mountains to the seaside town of Al Janb where after a few days she coughs up from her lungs the breathmoss which had helped her to breathe the rarefied mountain air, spilling it into the sea. From a site across the bay over the horizon rockets rise to the orbiting space station where the local Gateway lies. Macleod’s evocation of the sights and sounds of Al Janb, the society in which Jalila lives, its customs and trappings (dreamtents, tideflowers, that breathmoss) is masterful. Neither is he prepared to rush his story. The accumulation of detail is part of its strength.

One day Jalila notices a strange looking person fishing. The reader immediately knows this is a male, but Jalila has to be told, then her investigations reveal that he, Kalal, is in fact a boy not a man. Their friendship grows but does not develop in the way that the reader might expect. In fact her first lover is the local centre of teenage attention, Nayra. The crucial encounter of her life though is with an aged tariqua in a ruined castle someway out of town.

This is a beautifully told, wise story of coming of age, getting of wisdom, and time (or perhaps relativistic) travel.

In Verglas a lone settler on the planet Korai – always unnamed, though his wife Marion, and children Robbie and Sarah are given due recognition – comes to terms with his existence. It is an odd story, Marion, Robbie and Sarah having transformed into winged predators more suitable to the new world while their bodies remain more or less intact in a mound outside his base. A traverse across country – albeit inside a mechanical device – involves the use of many mountaineering techniques and terms and the inevitable accident provides tension.

The Chop Girl scratches that endless itch in parts of British culture to dredge up stories set in the Second World War. Our unnamed female narrator was a kitchen procurement orderly on a bomber base where she gained a reputation as a chop girl, a witch, a harbinger of death, after several men she had dallied with after a dance or evening together (with her always careful never to go the whole way) did not come back from their next flight. Then Squadron Leader Walt Williams comes to the base, a man with a charmed life, survivor of many freak accidents. She soon senses there is something strange about him, an other-worldliness. MacLeod’s atmosphere of realism blended with spookiness is excellently conjured up.

The Noonday Pool features an ageing composer, Sir Edward, who lives near Worcester and is obviously modelled on Elgar. (An afterword explicitly states that he was, but is in most ways different.) The story is seen through the personas of Peg, a girl seemingly inhabiting the wild, Sir Edward, and his housekeeper Mrs France. Sir Edward is having trouble negotiating his old age and composing any more music. Peg is an enigmatic presence with feral tendencies – and who may even be a werewolf – Mrs France a down-to-earth, practical figure. The Noonday Pool is somewhere in the woods nearby to where Peg takes Sir Edward one day. The story resists explaining itself but like all MacLeod’s work is beautifully written.

New Light on the Drake Equation is the story of Tom Kelly, told from the retrospect of his old age and a last encounter with the love of his life, Terr. Tom’s consuming interest has always been the search for extraterrestrial intelligent life, a search in which almost everyone else has lost interest now that no such life has been found elsewhere in the Solar System, not by the (modified) humans who have finally landed on Mars nor by the probe sent to Jupiter’s moon Europa. He still conducts his search from a mountain installation near St Hilaire, a village in the Massif Central of France which is also a centre for the night life of flyers, genetically modified people with wings, taking advantage of the thermals. In this world genetic adaptation is commonplace, even acquisition of a different language is achieved simply, by imbibing a vial of the appropriate serum, though Tom of course prefers the old ways. Replete with mentions of classic SF, in which Tom was enraptured in his youth, and a discussion of both the Drake equation and the Fermi Paradox, it is threnodic in tone and in that last encounter with Terr becomes a ghost story.

Isabel of the Fall recounts a myth, or, rather, is a commentary on one, from the world of Ghezirah. In the aftermath of the War of the Lilies, Isabel, unremarkable, not too intelligent but not dim, not beautiful but not ugly, is taken from her orphaned origins to be an acolyte of the Dawn Church, trained to sing in the light of Sabil in the mornings from her minaret, directing it towards the mirrors that distribute it over her valley of Nashir; and sing it out again at night. A minor fault in mirror 28 leads her to examine the courtyard of the Cathedral of the Word – a vast library – where she sees a young girl, Genya, dancing. Her apology to Genya for the lack of light goes on to become a friendship which is a betrayal of both their churches, and precipitates the fall of the title. Although the tale has aspects of fantasy various bits of high tech are present in the piece and its Science Fictionality is confirmed when we find Ghezirah is a Dyson sphere.

The Summer Isles, an Altered History, has a tonal quality similar to Keith Roberts’s Weihnachtsabend (see part way down this link) except here Britain – aggrandised as Greater Britain and run by the Empire Alliance and its leader John Arthur – has not collaborated with a fascist regime but itself become one. Narrator Griffin Brooke (known by his pen name Geoffrey Brook) is a homosexual whose past links to Arthur from before the Great War (which the Allies lost in 1918 – presumably as a result of the success of the German Spring Offensive) lead to him being embroiled in a plot to remove Arthur from power. The Summer Isles of the title are off the coast in Scotland and a supposed refuge to which ‘filthy Jews’ have been sent for resettlement. Other camps on the Isle of Man have a more sinister character. The usual grace notes of altered history occur, King Edward VIII and Queen Wallis, for example, along with Churchill as Prime Minister in the 1920s and not making a success of it. But in the main this is an extremely well told story about life, regret and loss.

Pedant’s corner:- flashes of lightening (lightning,) sunk (sank.) “The rockets rose and rose in dry crackles of summer lightening” (lightning.) “Jalila span around” (spun,) windowledge (window ledge.) “We’ve only got four kinds of taste receptor on our tongues” (was obviously written before the discovery of umami – [published 1996],) platypi (platypus is from Greek; the plural would be platypodes, I think, but in English platypuses is fine,) sprung (sprang,) sunk (x 2, sank,) “each time I forget” (rest of tale is in past tense; forgot,) maw (used as in ‘mouth’. A maw is a stomach,) “the fluid I’ve been given” (I’d been,) “and I lowering it” (no need for the ‘I’,) outside of (outside. Please,) “this strange new sliver creature” (silver,) cookhouse (kitchen,) WRAF (x 2. In World War 2 the women’s RAF was known as the WAAF, Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, not the WRAF. Doubtless this had to be translated for the story’s publication in the US,) “their twenty mission tour” (Bomber Command tours comprised thirty flights, not twenty,) NAFFI (x 10. The correct acronym is NAAFI, for Navy, Army and Air Force Institute,) hangers (x 4, hangars,) “and they’d have been all hell to pay” (and there’d have been,) “a slow and ugly butterfly pined on the needles of half a dozen searchlights” (pinned on the needles?) “Nissan hut(s)” (x 2, these were not Japanese. ‘Nissen hut(s)’,) bousers (bowsers,) “(his) dog ran up her” (ran up to her,) knarled (gnarled,) “her buxom heaving” (bosom.) “Where had it began?” (begun,) “had given up with whatever had once bugged them” (no need for that ‘with’,) “if one was to believe the figure of which was assigned to it” (no need for the ‘of’,) “they skived spare radio telescopy and mainframe processing time” (skive means to avoid, not to procure,) “though the message was going out in any cause” (in any case,) “which would had surprised Salvador Dali” (would have surprised,) “Edgar Rice Burrows” (Burroughs,) “Yate’s Wine Lodge” (Yates’s,) “huge near-stella aggregations of matter” (near-stellar,) “of whatever he’d drank the night before” (drunk,) “my two ex’s” (exes,) unfocussed (unfocused.) “‘Do, don’t they?’” (‘They do, don’t they’,) “until the booze finally wreaks some crucial organ” (wrecks.) “He gazed as the hills in the east” (at the hills,) boujour (bonjour,) “weird costumes and make-ups” (make-up,) “proud of him to” (too,) “a tiny representations” (representation,) interfered (interfered,) “within each their cells” (each of their cells,) “spread it vast roots” (its vast roots,) “the size of small planet” (of a small planet,) smoothes (smooths,) hurrumphs (usually spelled ‘harrumphs’,) “and we’re generally been ‘tolerant’” (we’ve,) “the warmth of this own flesh” (of his own flesh,) “for a week of so” (or so,) “the Cumbernald’s” (It two people called Cumbernald; so Cumbernalds,) “won the George Cross at Ypres” (in our world the George Cross is awarded to civilians, not soldiers,) “a homosexual affaire” (an attempt to glamourise ‘affair’?) Ramsey MacDonald (Ramsay?) “to keep the prols happy” (usually spelled ‘proles’,) newshordings (newshoardings.) “I brought myself an expensive new gramophone” (bought myself,) air raid practise (practice,) “the two PC’s” (PCs.) “A hesitate” (I hesitate.) “Presidents De Gaulle and Von Papen” (von Papen perhaps but in an alternative 1940 de Gaulle would still have been an almost unknown minor army officer,) “with its tall widows” (windows,) “the mossy urns and statutes” (statues,) “lightening blasts of flashbulbs” (although flashbulbs do light – and so lighten – things, I think ‘lightning blasts’ makes more sense and there are previous instances of this error to take account of.) “Still less that real” (less than real makes more sense,) “not waiting him to come out and help me” (not waiting for him.) “I was finally ready for axtive again” (active service again,) “to have made little impression of the world” (on the world,) “quavers that he’s like another” (that he’d like another,) pints of Fullers’ (Fuller’s,) “in the crowds sobbing howls” (crowd’s,) “the fireman’s angry voices” (firemen’s,) the Cumbernald’s (this time it was ‘of the Cumbernalds’, so Cumbernalds’.)

Cyberpunk Forty Years On

You may have noticed from my sidebar that I have been reading a new cyberpunk anthology, Night, Rain, And Neon, edited by Michael Cobley and published by NewCon Press.

This marks forty years since the publication of William Gibson’s Neuromancer which introduced many people to the sub-genre.

The author list contains names familiar and unfamiliar.

I will be reviewing it for ParSec magazine. The review is likely to appear in issue 4.

Insights by Eric Brown and Keith Brooke

The Kon-Tiki Quartet Part 3. PS Publishing, 2019, 102 p.

Several years on from Parasites, the second in Brown and Brooke’s Kon-Tiki quartet, Kat Manning and Travis Denholme have not revealed the secret of how Daniel DeVries died, nor of Travis’s discovery of the neurotransmitter the geosaurs on the planet of Newhaven produce from their symbiosis with their marmoset companions. This can allow telepathy at short range and for a short period and was instrumental in the circumstances of DeVries’s death. Ever since then, Kat and Travis have been working clandestinely together, he to synthesise the transmitter, she to work out the effects such a drug may have on the attitudes and behaviour of the human population.

Kat arranges a meeting where they can thrash out their problems but it is forestalled when Travis is shot by a stranger. Before the hit can be finished off a man called Meyers saves Travis by wrestling with his attacker, who is seriously injured. Something about the two is odd, there is a new, fresh quality to their skin and a recognisable aspect to their behaviours.

This incident plunges the pair into a plot involving the printing technology which allowed the present colonists to be produced on Newhaven and the question of whether or not the deep-frozen passengers on the Kon-Tiki ought to be resurrected, mixed in with a political dilemma about the direction the colony ought to take – and one reprinted man’s megalomania.

It’s unfortunate that the constraints of the series – plot has to be incorporated into each instalment – do not quite allow a fuller exploration of the implications for the characters of the printing technology. Though it is touched on, how it would feel to have memories of a marriage that the other person involved does not, the dynamics of that skewed relationship are somewhat lost.

Both Brown and Brooke, individually and collectively, are never less than readable though.

‘Time interval later’ count: 9.

Pedant’s corner:- well done for using that excellent Scottish word havering.
Otherwise; whiskey (whisky, please,) “Or ‘We need to’” (Or, ‘We need to’,) “Or ‘Can you imagine’” (Or, ‘Can you imagine’,) “if Travis and I lay low for a while” (is this the conditional? In which case I think it’s okay. Or should it be ‘if Travis and I lie low’? Stick in the ‘were’ and it would certainly be ‘if Travis and I were to lie low’,) “made her wanted to punch him” (want to punch him) “said in a barely a whisper” (remove the first ‘a’) “ful-length” (full-length.)

BSFA Awards Booklet 2021

This is the first such BSFA booklet to contain nominations for the Best Book for Younger Readers. The extracts seem to be mostly first chapters from the nominees. I didn’t read any of those since I doubt I’ll ever go on to read the whole book for any of them. I may get round to some of the Best Novel contenders – already have done so for Aliya Whiteley’s Skyward Inn – but probably not all.

As to the Best Shorter Fiction we have:

Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard1
Thanh is the daughter of the Queen of Bình Håi, but had spent time in the overseas country of Ephteria effectively as a hostage. Strange instances of small fires plague her. She is assisting her mother at a trade meeting with representatives of Ephteria when she is surprised by one of the delegates, Princess Eldris, and even more surprised when Eldris reveals she wishes to rekindle the affair they had had in Ephteria. This ends inconclusively, as if it were an extract from a longer piece – but it isn’t labelled as an extract.

Light Chaser by Peter F Hamilton and Gareth Powell2
This too ends inconclusively. Perhaps they’re all extracts. Interstellar legend Amahle the Light Chaser travels the Domain at near light speed on a cycle through the worlds. The story begins with her deliberately crashing her ship the Mnemosyne into a red giant to create a quark star before moving into a scene from one of her trading visits.

O2 Arena by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki3
For some reason this story is preceded by a “Content Warning; Cancer, Death or dying, Sexual assault, Terminal Illness, Violence.” Leaving aside the fact that these could be said to apply to just about all modern Science Fiction at least one of them isn’t true. There is no sexual assault described in the story. Sexual harassment and requests/demands for sexual favours in return for good exam grades are imputed by two of the characters as applying to another (minor) one but no actual assault occurs in the narrative. (The other warnings stand.)

But to the business of the story (which does have an ending.)
Global warming has killed off phytoplankton. Oxygen is so scarce it is rationed by cost. Currency is by means of O2 credits. Our narrator has gone through University but is now at a strict law school so as to get the best job possible to earn credits. (The school is riddled with sexism and favour-seeking lecturers.) His friend Ovuke is also a student but is dying of ovarian cancer and her family is running out of money, leading the narrator to resort to desperate measures to get some. The story here is fine but its execution is marred by excessive info dumping and unnecessary insertion of acronyms.

Things Can Only Get Better by Fiona Moore4 also comes to an ending. It is one of those light-touch would-be humorous tales that can be extremely irritating if they don’t work. Moore just about gets away with it. Our narrator is an autologist called in by the police to investigate a case of illegal gambling in a syndicate centred on the hospital where she used to work. This is in a future where people and machine intelligences (Things) both work on the wards.

I also read the bits from the non-fiction works. These are mostly precis/preambles to the full work. How anyone can choose between such diverse works which is the best is a moot point.

The winners were announced here.

Pedant’s corner:- 1“sharp inhale of breath” (inhalation,) vermillion (x 2, vermilion,) “laying low” (lying low,) “that room Giang falling to her knees” (needs a comma between room and Giang,) unneeded paragraph indentations and line breaks. 2“was very different beast” (was a very different beast,) stranglet (later ‘strangelet’,) relatavistically (relativistically.) 3 “Not that the air there was any better there” (has one ‘there’ too many,) “letting her lay back” (lie back.) 4 “even if the only things to which that description could be implied was to Wills and me” (were to Wills and me,) no full stop at the story’s end.

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