Dual Anthology Review

Lou Anders points to this review, a rare dual review on the two anthologies The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction and Lou's Fast Forward 1: Future Fiction from the Cutting Edge.

Lou gives a great detailed analysis of this review, so read it. But I have to say it's pretty interesting that both books are reviewed together, and not one after another.

The one thing that the reviewer got wrong, and I have to point out, was stating that Jeffrey Thomas's story was an excerpt from Deadstock, when it merely features the same main character, Jeremy Stake. Even though the reviewer was "sufficiently intrigued to check out the longer work." Which is great.

One of the things that grated with me was with his reference to Neal Asher's "Bioship", one of my favourite in the collection, because it "lacks a message". It raises a point that, okay, there might not be any obvious message, but there's a tone and sufficient literary quality to have you flicking back looking for the nuts and bolts of the complexity, the sheer quality of language used to hint at darkness so that it's difficult to see where the real sinister qualities of the story lie: well that's just damn great. Should all short stories have an obvious message? Or should there be things to pick apart over time, and not be so obvious so that everyone can see it easily? Katherine Mansfield, one of England's greatest literary short fiction writers, was superb at working below the surface in her tales, without things being so obvious. She took a chunk of time, worked at it, turned it over with superb and highly intelligent language, and you had to look underneath it all for meaning, and then you found that you were looking inside yourself just as much as the text. I think the genre can be at least as good as that, if not better, for the sheer dimensions in which the narrative can be taken. For me, Asher's story was one of the most literary ones in the anthology, and I hate to see it overlooked so casually. Especially as the prose is full of flair. Rant over. To the coffee jar!

— Mark N


Lou Anders said...

It's been a while since I read it, and quite a lot of reading since, so pardon me if I am not quite recalling correctly, but Asher's BioShip was one of the ones that really stayed with me. I remember talking to George right after I read it, because I felt there was some ambiguity as to the ending, the hint that the "victim" orchestrated more of the events than the narrator relayed. I found it very unsettling, and - and this is the important bit - found myself musing over its outcome for days. It is also my favorite of the (admittedly not very many) Asher stories I've read so far.

Mark Newton said...

Hey, Lou. Glad to hear you liked it too; I remember you commenting on it somewhere before. I love the unsettling quality of that story too. It shows it's penetrated the mind on a far deeper level than an obvious story, with an obvious message, may have done. And that's the great thing about it: you keep wanting to pick it apart for further clues. The power of fiction! I think you're the only reviewer I've seen online who looked picked up on "Bioship" in particular...