Escape Velocity, the science fiction magazine from Adventure Books of Seattle, was host to some of the most talented writers in the genre. Presented here are many of the best short stories from the magazine, as well as others specially submitted for this collection by authors from around the world. This very unique book contains forty-eight sci-fi stories, such as 'Scream Quietly' by Sheila Crosby, 'Royal Flush,' by Ian Whates, and Rebecca Latyntseva's controversial time-travel tale, 'Red Monkeys'. The stunning cover images only add to what is undoubtably one of the best science fiction collections of the year. Edited by Geoff Nelder of Great Britain and Robert Blevins of the United States.
Geoff Nelder has a wife, two grown-up kids, an increasing number of grandkids, and lives in rural England within an easy cycle ride of the Welsh mountains. He taught Geography and Information Technology for years until writing took over his life. Geoff is a competition short-fiction judge, and a freelance editor.
Publications include several non-fiction books on climate reflecting his other persona as a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society; over 50 published short stories in various magazines and anthologies; thriller, humour, science fiction, and fantasy novels. 2005: Humorous thriller Escaping Reality. Republished 2012. 2008: Award-winning science fiction mystery with hot-blooded heroine, Exit, Pursued by a Bee. 2010: Another thriller received an Award d’Or from an Arts Academy in the Netherlands. Its third edition will be published in 2012, Hot Air. 2012: ARIA: Left Luggage science fiction apocalypse. An urban and historical magic realism fantasy, Xaghra’s Revenge, is in the hands of a literary agency.
"Escape Velocity" is a diverse selection of modern science fiction stories. The stories are as unique and varied as the authors, each reflecting a different aspect of society.
As it is an anthology, it's very difficult to give an in depth review of characterization and style as I usually do. Instead, I'll discuss several stories I felt were most outstanding. This is in no way a reflection on the others. All are well written with interesting premises that warrant exploration. I have been an avid sci-fi reader since I was a child. Therefore, the stories I've chosen reflect my personal tastes.
"Birthright" by Ian Smith is the first that really caught my eye. It's about a teenage girl cast in a difficult role as a protector. She does her duty and moves on to her next assignment. I was impressed with the story's unique perspective and straightforward readability.
"Auditory Crescendo" by Geoff Nelder explores the use (or abuse) of a young man injured in an explosion. Experimental surgery leaves him with the ability to hear from a great distance. How like the government to exploit that. The story leaves the reader wondering just what he will do with his ability. Will he use it for good or ill?
"Caveat Emptor!" (Buyer Beware) by Bec Zugor presents a compelling ethical and moral issue. In this world, talent transplants are made by taking cells from a highly talented artist or musician, a patch is cloned and put into the subject. What the company doesn't say is that certain personality aberrations can also be transplanted—with disturbing results. The climax adds new dimensions to the words, "Buyer Beware".
"First Class" by Barbara Krasnoff is a lighthearted story of a young woman stranded on an alien world when the star cruiser she's on meets with an accident. At first terrified by her surroundings, she learns to cope and even makes friends with the natives. It's a charming story about finding ways to get along.
"Heaven as Iron, Earth as Brass" by Richard J. Goldstein is an amazingly powerful tale. It shows the reader that some people would rather die for their hate than learn to live without it. This story is a deeply moving social commentary.
"Galactic Collision" by Magdalena Bell is a wonderfully expressive poem about outer space. I enjoyed the images she created with her words. It is the only poem in the anthology and well worth being included.
"Scream Quietly" by Sheila Crosby was one of my favorite stories. Told by way of letters from the perspective of a young woman in 1849 England. This story depicts the intricacies of alien contact and space/ time travel. It's a wonderfully heartwarming tale with a great twist at the end.
"Hole Card" by Robert Blevins is a somewhat disturbing look at how a witness from the Roswell crash is treated and interrogated. It puts in clear focus attitudes toward aliens, as something to be dissected and experimented upon.
"Chester" by Karl Bunker is a lovely story of a man and his pet alien, Chester. Despite popular opinion to the contrary, Hexapod owners know that their alien companions are loving, faithful and kind. The gift they give their owners on dying could very well save humanity. This is a beautiful depiction not only of trust, but of redemption.
"Borrowed Time" by Gustavo Bondoni leaves the reader wondering if all that transpired was as a result of some sick, ethereal joke. Has Hawthorne undermined humanity because of purposely bad advice? The reader is left to determine this for himself.
"Escape Velocity" is an excellent anthology of sci-fi stories for any science fiction lover. Its amazing variety has something to please every reader. I highly recommend "Escape Velocity".
This was certainly a good value collection - more than 45 stories, which lasted a good while. As with any anthology there is a mix of styles, moods (some serious, some humorous), quality, viewpoints, themes and so on. As such it is difficult to summarise the overall collection, and easier to give examples of the stories I enjoyed most (in the order in which they appear), along with a quote that I liked from each story.
Auditory Crescendo (Geoff Nelder)
"If they were much closer, their voices would hurt; vibrate his brain to migraine jelly."
A satisfying mix of action and mystery in a world with no moral compass.
Caveat Emptor! (Bec Zugor)
“I collected the blood,” I whisper. “Had a few sips – don’t know why – and took the rest back to my habi and painted with it. Nothing recognisable. Just splashed it on and brushed it over the wall. I think it was going to be a line drawing, a sketch of some sort.”
An enjoyable story with a twist in the tale. It mixes violence and art on a compact canvas. The colour selections at the end were convincing details, and the way they described what was happening was a lovely bit of form and theme matching.
Testing (Kaolin Fire)
"He dipped his hand into the bowl of pinkish gruel in the center, and had a sip of thick liquid. Life ... life wasn’t that bad, when you got used to it."
An interesting and very short story that made me think and work. I would have liked a teeny bit more illumination at the end, but any story that I think about afterwards is a success.
An Empty Kind of Love (Adam Colston)
“Honey,” she pouted to her reflection, “why don’t we fool around?” She followed it up with a flash of teeth and her most vivacious smile. Her internal diagnostics monitored the performance closely. They instantly confirmed that her sexual allure was fully functional.
An excellent twist on my expectations as whimsy turns to something darker.
Chester (Karl Bunker)
"He looked up at me and tried to climb up onto my lap, but none of his rear legs seemed to be working, and he was holding his ball with one of his front feet. I hadn’t put the ball in there. He must have been holding it when I put him in the case."
A sad story but with hope, too. A world situation painted in metaphor hues. I liked it because I'm a big softy.
The Inn Between (Michael Anderson)
"He ran to the window and watched in awe as his entire neighborhood began forming out of nothing and spreading across the landscape. It undulated in brilliant colors and snapped into reality."
An intriguing purgatorial mystery with a bleak twist, hints of a subjective perspective Robin Cook novel.
The Prettiest Star (Jaine Fenn)
"I’ve got ‘cold fire’ all right. It’s all I’ve got now. That and this view."
An interesting setting and tone, bleak and believable, but with beauty in the lines.
Outside the Grid (D.J. Emry)
"It builds a monument of rock samples near its favorite boulder, and writes a message of welcome with the aid of its rock abrasion tool, its loyal ship’s RAT."
Short and sweet and keeps your mind active whilst creating an unexpected empathy.
Relativity (Gareth D. Jones)
"Her eyes were a brilliant green, like emeralds that had caught the light, and she would stare with such intensity that he was sure there was something special there, just beyond his vision."
A short story with impact. I saw the twist coming but the mental image still retained strength.
Doc (Barry Pomeroy)
"While Doc watched, the thing turned this way and that, looking for a good path through the boulders and sand, and Doc could see its true nature. It was a fake, thin like the metal walls of the cart, like the thin plates of black stone that made up the tarmac. When it turned to come towards him, Doc could see its falseness, although when it turned sideways it loomed large, even compared to the cliff. It was like a moving wall, but with an eye on either side. Its legs moved too fast to count, even if Doc had an inclination to try. The sight was overwhelming."
I hereby break my own rules. I don't normally like stories that don't seem to fully explain themselves. But here I was thrown into an interesting and confusing situation, I could visualise it and wanted to know more, to unravel the mystery. I didn't succeed in the latter.
It’s Easier to Pretend in the Dark (David Tallerman)
"It was beyond her. All she could manage was to look as if she’d cry at any moment: her dark eyes wide, her chin bobbing, and one hand hovering around her heart as if it was about to crack. All of that was Henrietta’s too – yet each affected mannerism seemed real now, full of meaning. Just like Henrietta, she didn’t cry. Unlike Henrietta, she didn’t argue either."
A sad story that works, even though I would have liked a bit more. Hints of Greg Egan's preoccupations here in the technology-facilitated relationships we don't currently have.
Wet Life (Gayle Applegate)
"He pinpointed the wiring attached to the car’s computer and removed an adapter implant from behind his ear. After inserting the proper wires he returned the adapter and awaited the transfer of information. Within seconds an assortment of command codes downloaded data relative to the car’s electrical components. A visual of the Crossfire’s schematic accompanied the codes. He scanned the design, found what he wanted and transmitted the appropriate signal. Click. The trunk unlocked."
A well written story that starts in action and pace and continues that way up until the abrupt and bewildering end. I love rats and hate vivisection so the protagonist appealed to me immediately.
One Long Holiday (Ben Cheetham)
"The sun was fast burning off the pale mist that hung over the beach. Soon, Connor knew, the corpses would blow up like obscene balloons and the air would fill with the scent of roasting flesh. He worked quickly, rifling through pockets and bags."
Restrained and emotional at the same time, excellent writing, with a clever dripping of appropriate detail without over-telling. Probably my favourite story. This reminded me of 'The Road' (McCarthy).
Whisper in the Void (Robert Blevins)
A repetitive beep-beep-beep got Harris' attention. Eastman pointed to something on the scanners. “Land,” he said quietly. “There is something down there. I'm adjusting course.” He added, “Doesn't seem like much.” “What do you mean?” “It could be a rock sticking up out of the ocean. It can't be more than a couple of hundred square meters...”
This is a story of predicament that reminded me of Stephen King's short story 'Survivor Type'. The horror for me was the small amount of land in a world of sea. When I read this I had assumed the rock they landed on was really part of some sea creature, and the only bit of ‘land’ on the sea world would dive at some point. At the same time I had been discussing jellyfish with the writer Helen J. Beal. All those images stuck in my mind and added an extra element of subjective horror. The irritating Ensign in the story was part of the twist, enabling us to see the nobility of another character, even though I wanted the Ensign to get his just desserts!
Red Monkeys (Rebecca Latyntseva)
"It was an ordinary, hung-over winter dawn, crows cawing in dissonant harmony with Papa’s snoring. Larisa edged out of bed, wincing as razorblading pain slashed. Navigating her way through an obstacle course of empty Stolichnaya bottles, handcuffs, full ashtrays and whips, she zigzagged into the bathroom."
Another of my favourites, this really stuck me, almost visceral. The sparse detail is effective, letting the imagination fill in the blanks. It is obviously inspired by the excellent Gilliam film '12 Monkeys'. There is clever use of language, and the writer develops a unique voice for the messages/diaries.
I am a co-editor of this collection of SF stories so I am biased. It is wonderful! LOL. Seriously, it is an eclectic mis of many of science fiction's sub-genres from time travel, to alien abduction with many literary works there. A must read collection for any science fiction fan.