From here: https://cernzoo.wordpress.com/the-big-book-of-science-fiction/#comment-368
(THE BIG BOOK OF SCIENCE FICTION, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer)
STUDENT BODY (1953) by F.L. Wallace
“He could learn a lot about the animal from trying to kill it.”
This story seems to have been printed out of chronological order of publication and, having now read it, I can infer why. As this work’s own digger — or, as it calls it, a “Crawler” — finds out, there is something about slow-motion reviewing of real-time that can spot the leapfrogs of evolution, even if one tries to disrupt that pattern with the equivalent of a non sequitur, here a robot cat.
The story concerns Earth’s colonisation on a planet where the discredited Biologist had predicted no pests, and also where the net effect of equipment towed there means more expected of the colony and the equipment needed in a sort of inverse tontine or snowball effect that parallels the fast-motion evolution of the pests, that in turn parallels the naked Creation myth that neatly brackets, as student-bodies, this work at its beginning and at its end. Perhaps the speediest evolution conceivable is that of the Ouroboros represented by the plot itself?
From here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2016/09/03/uncertainties-vols-1-2/#comment-8184
(UNCERTAINTIES – Swan River Press)
A LETTER FROM MCHENRY by Reggie Chamberlain-King
“It took two sticks to carry him now and we both — Louisa and I — had to hoist him from his seat.”
A meticulously woven story with a texture and traction that threaten to hang about like an unopened letter you might, one day, dare open fully to sense its full implications, such as the eventual, as yet inscrutable, fate of Louisa here, as I wondered, still wonder, about the girl’s fate in the previous story. And McHenry’s sticks, just two of them untangled from the whole clutch of walking-sticks in the Neilson story…
This story has a constructive Dickensian feel but further enhanced by the feeling that letters, the letters within the letters, are cloying and reaching out like those sticks to entrap you. Who wrote which letters, which slope or characterised swirl create different implications or messages, and how do they interface with the childhood backstory when McHenry and the narrator were boys and the grandmother was a catalyst for what happens later, almost a Dorian Gray revelation perhaps as the narrator takes to manly work on the ships again?
I can easily imagine this text working at several levels, most levels, I suspect, working their magic upon those who choose at whichever level to read it, or all levels working subliminally together in gestalt, even while one also senses that an inimical force — under cover of the Intentional Fallacy as literary theory — has sent this text to you to read by opening this book.
From here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2016/09/03/the-pain-tree-and-other-stories-charles-wilkinson/
(THE PAIN TREE AND OTHER STORIES by Charles Wilkinson)
FRIEND AND FOREIGNER
“The first night they climbed up to the top storey of the only tower block and watched the campus scintillating beneath them in the navy-blue air. And the Ecumenical Religious Centre had a spire — of sorts.”
…as one of this story’s three main areas of time-and-place – that campus, and another author, Christopher Harman, seemed to be familiar with it in his story ‘Scrubs’ that I once reviewed here. I was familiar in real life with that same campus, too.
This work has a deadpan poignancy to conjure with, if not to die for. Thomas plaits his time trifold now from an inimically archetypal bedsit, with a landlady who has strict rules of bath and kitchen for him, despite noisily entertaining loose morals in her own room… He still tussles with the mysteries of central heating, and also Powysian mystic visions (“A scent of sweet apples”), and he recalls the missing Martin he once knew in that earlier campus, son of a railwayman-become-vicar, and does Thomas dare summon the motivation to ring the vicar to enquire about Martin? And he also recalls previous schooldays with Martin, and with a well-characterised older foreign boy who had been friend of the Shah of Iran…well, it’s not a long story but it is a full plot. In those days, people hadn’t yet really crystallised their own xenophobia…
We feel Thomas’s yearnings for a patchy past by dint of it being marginally less patchy than his present. A musical ‘dying fall’ thought of mine, and there is also a ‘dying fall’ ending to this meandering but sharply observed story.
“At the bottom of the right-hand pocket lay an iceberg of tissues, roughened with forgotten colds.”