Tim's Reviews > Par-delà l'Horizon

Par-delà l'Horizon by Sébastien Guillot
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bookshelves: français, own, science-fiction, short-stories-novellas, review-copies, reviewed, anthologies

'Par-delà l'horizon' (transl.: Beyond the Horizon) is a new anthology published by the French publisher Éditions ActuSF. The project was lead by Sébastien Guillot, a translator (into French, obviously) of several famous SFFF-authors' works (G. R. R. Martin, Ursula K. Le Guin, Jack Vance, Philip K. Dick, ...). The goal of this new anthology is to present a selection of contemporary, French science fiction, be it by experienced authors or upcoming talents.

The anthology is prefaced/introduced by its anthologist, Sébastien Guillot, who tells about the creation of this anthology and how more and more female authors step up and claim their places. When counting all the contributors, there are 20 people: 11 men, 9 women, taking turns to tell their tale. At the end you'll find an overview of short introductions of each author.

Because of Goodreads's character limit, I had to remove a large chunk of my original review.


The ones that stood out for me:

Émilie Querbalec - La Parfaite équation du bonheur
Émilie Querbalec is one of the new authors. For this short story she decided to tackle something that has been present in our lives for more than a decade and took it a step further. A dating app, Meetiel (iel = il/elle, he/she, especially in light of the current gender discussions; better translated would be "Meet him/her", of course), advising lovebirds how to behave, when to meet, when to text, etc. However, luckily our couple still has an own mind for it and decide to not let their lives be dominated by an app, if only this app was not so addictive. And what of the children? A more than realistic story.

Stéphane Beauverger - Deimocratos
His story tells of an annual masked festival, set in Poland or Russia (?), where participants show off their self-made masks, the scarier, the better. In this society, people take "emosuppressors", so as to not be scared in daily life. One day, though, during the festival, the son of the most famous mask creator in the area disappears in the forest nearby; previously, she lost her daughter in the exact same manner. And she wasn't the only one whose children had disappeared. The forest was closed off because of previous disappearances, yet that made it all the more exciting and attractive to children - and the influence of folklore (Rusalka), though with severe consequences. It's a story in which nobody - not even the mayor (fearing unwanted attention) - really wants to take action, unless said artist. The quest will prove demanding, a matter of determination, trust, and fighting for your convictions. 'Deimocratos' is an exciting page-turner. Remark: no translation for the Polish vocabulary.

Silène Edgar - Espoir
This story deals with conquering and colonising other planets. A fully-automated, AI-controlled spaceship is sent out to establish a colony on a far-away planet: Project Renewal (Renouveau). The people behind the project are no more and nobody on Earth even remembers this project. The AI (Espoir or Hope, derived from the Greek Elpis) takes care of everything: creating humans, planting seeds, teaching, supervising. There's even a doctor and various modules on board to help the first humans continue the project. All goes well, until the first humans almost, by inadvertence, destroy everything. Luckily, they can rectify their mistake and through fast acting populate the planet, though the ship will be no more. All's well that ends well, in a way.

Pierre Bordage - Et le verbe se fit cher
A language-based story by one of France's grand authors. Premise: Authors and publishers are to pay for the words they use. A new international charter or law, only applied to the book sector (journalists, influencers, ... are exempt), has decreed that words are goods, need to be paid for. A long list has been compiled, each word or type of word linked to a tariff. Publishers impose this new regulation on their authors, but as they don't make that much money, a solution must be found to avoid this new "tax" or pay as little as possible. So it happens: homonyms. Fool the system by using words that sound the same and still manage to come up with a coherent story. Until the Association of French Editors takes that idea to create their own list of taxable words, based on the logic of the author(s) who came up with the brilliant alternative. While trying to sail around the international regulation, they created their own and were fooled on a national level. Not every law or regulation created by the free market makes sense or is beneficial to those subjected to it, finding an alternative to circumvent it can even cause one to be chained even more. Everything can be turned into a tradeable good, from air over water to language.

Christian Léourier - Le Juge, le bot et l'écureuil
A beautifully written story involving the Three Laws of Robotics. An autonomous robot turns himelf in at the police station for having murdered a human being. The robot wanted his statement to be recorded by a human being; if it was done by an adminibot, there would not have been a problem, as a robot is not supposed to kill a human being. So, the problem wouldn't exist. Of course, the robot is convicted, to be dissected. Nothing conclusive is found, but the robot doesn't get reassembled. How did the robot breaks the laws? He executed the wish of his then-proprietor, who was terminally ill. It's only then that he became an autonomous robot.
Meanwhile, the judge questions his verdict, especially after having seen an squirrel being attacked by crows for a piece of bread. The judge scared them away to protect the squirrel. Why? Because squirrels are cute and crows aren't? Why did he consider it necessary to intervene? Much later, squirrels were said to have disappeared due to a zoonosis, possible replacements would have been pet-bots. Or, in other words, can robots be given equal rights like human beings or are they only machines? Do they really want to take over the world or are they only following a programmed routine? How different are we from robots? See, for a similar story, Autonomous by Annalee Newitz.

Floriane Soulas - Projet Cerebrus
This is the second story I read by Floriane Soulas, the first is to be found in the anthology 'Frontières' (2021) of the French festival Les Imaginales. 'Projet Cerebrus' is about humanoids being deployed for planetary discovery and colonisation travels. A large project was set up, including the required trainings. One of the big questions here is: What about the robots' rights? Do the interests of the Consortium prevail over those of the testers and robots? For a similar story, and there are several out there, many of which I haven't read, I thought (again) of Autonomous by Annalee Newitz. I found Soulas's story the better of these two.

Romain Lucazeau - Variation sur un poème de Borges
I've read only one book by Borges: Everything and Nothing, didn't like it. Mr Lucazeau's story is then much more accessible. Unless I'm mistaken, it's about a game of chess in which the pawns are brought to life, particularly the soldier questioning the reason(s) for and purpose of the game, for the whole situation. Or, an analogy of real-life situations?

Audrey Pleynet - La Solitude des fantômes
Another new author for me is Audrey Plenet. Her story is about corporations owning your body, like it's a machine they can operate to keep the economy running, to make sure the work is done. In return for one's "voluntary" act, one can enjoy a lot of free time: spending time on social media, playing games, etc. All the while you're not aware what is going on, as you're perpetually spending time in a virtual environment. However, when you have debts, corporations fully own you, not just your body. You'll be "transferred" to DarkZ (the Dark Web) from which you can only escape or be brought back through physical intervention by a third person. In short, a story about being lived instead of YOU living YOUR life. In this digital age, something to think about, as many people seem to like the ease of automatisation, not having to think about certain actions or events (hence a chip in your hand to open doors, use the copier, start the car, make contactless payments, ...).

Ketty Steward - Quantique pour la liberté
Another story that is very closely based on contemporary society. We follow two women, each with a different background, each experiencing a situation that will have similar results. One has lost her job overnight. As a result, she has no access to her work/the office or any other service any more. In a digital society where everything is connected (work, bank, insurances, expenses, household situation, ...), it's hard to get back on track, to get back to "normal". In other words, she has no choice but to join the "liberated" people, who aren't part of the interconnected society any more either.
The other woman worked at the Sovereign Bank of France, working on a contractual basis. She didn't work full-time, combined it with studies and got pregnant. Her pregnancy/parenthood was used against her by the bank and her husband. They told her it influenced her work, the results, and her time spent with friends and family.
Both situations focused on work, figures, statistics. All for the sake of the economy: work, consume, repeat. Even if you're ill. Or suffer the consequences. What is freedom? Can one be really free?

Jean-Laurent Del Socorro - Ne vous inquiétez pas, on va s'y mettre
It's the year 2018 in New York, USA. After having played a clown, a father wishes to get rid of his costume. His young daughter mentions 'Gift a Stranger', a project where you donate something to someone far away, while you get something you desire in return from someone else. On the radio, there are talks about the "aliens" that have descended to settle on Earth. However, aliens are not welcome, you get the classic dividing excuses, and how natives insult each other, accusing the other of defending the aliens, while they steal jobs and what not. Not all aliens are bad, some are even nice, peaceful colleagues, offering a different view on life, the galaxy, ... and are perhaps more open-minded than the native people. It's a story about sympathy, connection, solidarity, of course focusing on the situation in the USA, where migration remain a sensitive topic. When you think of it, it could have fit in the anthology SOS Terre & Mer - Anthology Humanitaire de l'imaginaire.

Jeanne-A Debats - Chéloïdes
An old writer has been staying in a psychiatric institution for many years, after she was found on the brink of death; she had been seriously beaten up. She's under specific care, as a curse is said to rest on her, causing her skin to be damaged. The title refers to the skin condition keloid. She's most active during the night, contemplating life while sitting on the porch. A new nurse has arrived, is given the writer under his care. He's been a fan of the author for a very long time. Having heard her story, he decides to help her finish her last book, despite severe warnings against it. Unfortunately, the curse does find a way to prevent her one last time from finishing the book & signing the contract. Or does it? Thanks to the nurse's cunning, her publisher received a copy of the text, to be published posthumously. The nurse's employer, on the other hand, discovering what had happened to their long-time patient, was furious and fired him. (view spoiler). A story where technology can be (ab)used for the wrong reasons, imprisoning patients twice.

Frédéric Jaccaud - Golden age blues
Frédéric Jaccaud is mainly known for his work at Maison d'Ailleurs in Geneva, Switzerland.His story is about three childhood friends: two boys and one girl. One fo the boys is a bit of an outsider, dreams of building a rocket to fly into space. The other boy is the more popular one with the girls, being sportive and all, enjoying going out and drinking. The girl is fancied by both, though she uses her charms to flirt with both. Life happens, each goes his/her way. Our outsider does accomplish his dream, the other two choose to do other things. Long story short: When the three come back together after so many years, it's the "weird" one who's remained true to his roots, his convictions all along, even if he too experienced tough times... and a wonderful journey in space. Maybe precisely because of the journey or his determination at a young age did he decide to not stray from the chosen path?


The ones that weren't much to my liking or were quite a challenge:

luvan - på ön
luvan is said to be a versatile writer, not limited to one style or genre. This is her first of two stories in this anthology. I don't know what it was about, honestly. About a woman, Hilma Olousson, apparently, who seems to live secluded? Is a poet? It's quite fragmented, as if the reader is to fill in the blanks. Even Ariel Kyrou advises in his postface this: "Don't try to rationally understand 'på ön' and 'In der Höhle'; listen to the words, the phrases, ... and let yourself be cradled by these mystical texts." Afterwards he explains briefly what these stories are about, luckily.

L. L. Kloetzer - Le Pack
A group of children is based on a planet where winds dominate daily life. The children execute tasks ("games"). Each child has a role to play, be it disguised or not. This time they have to clean up (project bio-org; collect dead leaves, rotten fruit and vegetables, etc.), maintenance of their ecosystems. Danger lurks outside, though. The children need not fear, as they are guarded by an all-watching AI. When the base is hit by a meteorite, a procedure is started: the pack comes together to hide. Unfortunately, the airlock doesn't open and the AI won't respond to the children's command. Through collaboration a few children manage to close the gap, to let the adults then come to the rescue. Meanwhile, some children seems to have transformed into rat-caterpillars? Weird story, where I failed to see how one thing led to another.

Lauriane Dufant - Carne
Another story I was clueless about. I can only guess: something with plants? Climate change? Exotic plants having crossed borders to grown elsewhere? And who/what is Zea? Who/what is this "emptiness" or unnamed? Again, when consulting the Postface, it does having something to do with plants or perhaps living like a plant (in a migration context or other)?

Michael Roch - L'Heure où s'écrasent les zabèy
Michael Roch's story is set in Africa. There's so much here that isn't clear to me: People looking for metals in a forbidden zone? Drones policing the area? Injections allowing them to stay below the radar until someone rescues them? The used vocabulary was neither translated nor always clear from the context. Probably a good story, but the language is a serious barrier.

luvan - In der Höhle
This is luvan's second story. While I found a bit better, clearer than the other one, I had some trouble getting into the gist of it. Is it a philosophical tale - like Olaf Stapledon? - about the difference between being an astronaut in space and being a human on Earth? There were, in any case, many long phrases with several commas, reminding me of José Saramago's style, which hurt the fluidity of reading.

Léo Henry - J'ai senti venir l'avalanche dès les premiers flocons
If I understood correctly, this story takes place in a cold, arctic environment, possibly in a deserted observatory. Our character is alone, amidst a deserted world, full of failed and broken technology. Rivers and oceans continue to exist, to find their way, to reclaim what was taken. So basically, what if our modern society collapses? What is left? How do we cope with that? A difficult story, I admit, also because of Mr Henry's writing style. I like languages, but when language forms the barrier...

Chris Vuklisevic - Ce qui se tapit dans la tour
Mrs Vuklisevic is known from her debut novel 'Derniers jours d'un monde oublié'. In her story for this anthology we follow the exchanges between a young girl and a old woman in a centre for regeneration. The writing style is simple, accessible. Perhaps a little too simple, although one mustn't always write literary pieces to convey a certain message. On the contrary, a heavier style can be detrimental, as can a lighter one. So, what seems to be the message? Mankind and ecology, extinction of species, and trying to restart the natural system. A similar story is Le Monde enfin (Jean-Pierre Andrevon), which was revised and reissued earlier this year.


Ariel Kyrou offers his reflections on this anthology in its postface, all the while referring to e.g. the works of Philip K. Dick. Note that Mr Kyrou recently added a new book (or rather, a revised and updated version) to his bibliography: 'ACB Dick', published about a year after his previous magnum opus, Dans les imaginaires du futur, which I warmly recommend.


Science fiction is alive in France, as this anthology clearly shows. 'Par-delà l'horizon' presents a diverse, balanced selection of authors and themes, in line too with ActuSF's other anthology: No(s) Futur(s) (on my TBR-pile).

Some stories are set in (not so) distant and possible futures, others are more contemporary, indicating possible next steps into the direction we are heading in: space travel, digital societies, AI in various forms, life-work balance (out of balance), .... Not all change is bad, though. As the saying goes: Every cloud has a silver lining, as illustrated in certain stories.

One point of critique: Translations of foreign words are omitted, it's up to the reader to guess from the context, or look up the terms in a dictionary or online.


I was sent this book by Éditions ActuSF for review. Many thanks to them for the trust.
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Reading Progress

November 17, 2021 – Shelved as: to-read
November 17, 2021 – Shelved
November 17, 2021 – Shelved as: français
November 17, 2021 – Shelved as: own
November 17, 2021 – Shelved as: science-fiction
November 17, 2021 – Shelved as: short-stories-novellas
November 17, 2021 – Shelved as: review-copies
November 23, 2021 – Started Reading
December 13, 2021 –
page 283
51.45% "So far, so good. 11/19 read, only 2 stories which weren't to my liking (or rather, what were they about?). Even some very pleasant surprises among those that are to my liking."
December 19, 2021 – Finished Reading
December 29, 2021 – Shelved as: reviewed
March 9, 2022 – Shelved as: anthologies

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