01/06/2010. Contributed by Gareth D Jones
pub: Immersion Press.126 page enlarged paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK) ISBN: 978-0-956-3924-0-4.
check out website: www.immersionpress.com
I first came across Gareth Owens in 'Nature' magazine, where in fact he has had four stories published. Other than that, he's a relatively unknown author in SF circles and yet as I read through this collection I began to wonder why that is so. Four professional publications is more than many other short story authors whose names regularly grace the small press and semi-pro arenas but in 'Fun With Rainbows', Owens demonstrates that he is more than capable of entering those markets, too. Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that many of the tales in this collection of seventeen stories are flash fiction - tricky to write effectively and not well suited to making a lasting impression. While all of these stories are certainly well-written and either entertaining, amusing, touching or chilling or a combination of the foregoing, I know from my own experience of writing lots of flash fiction that this length of story is unlikely to garner much attention from reviewers or editors. That Owens' skill is not limited to just the shorter form is demonstrated by the inclusion of a 50-page story to round out the collection. More on that at the end.
'One Man Went To Mow' is what I would call Urban SF - a story of how advancing technology affects the everyday lives of ordinary people. I think I just made that phrase up, so if Urban SF becomes a big literary movement I should like to claim the kudos right here. With the demise of the internal combustion engine, one man would just like to enjoy the peace and quiet finally. It's an effectively ironic little tale with an excellent denouement.
In 'Innocent Prometheus', we're led into future where bio-weapons have produced mutations and some useful mutants are being put to use by the government. The story swiftly transforms into a tale of chilling horror that is delivered to haunting perfection.
The variety of tone and styles in this collection is quite remarkable. One that I particularly enjoyed is 'It's A Temple' because of its unusual format, something that I like to experiment with myself. This one is written as a series of correspondence between a magazine editor and an archaeologist and includes a short story among the correspondence. It's marvellous.
One jolly little story is 'The Revenge Of Schrödinger's Cat', involving a space-station, zero-gravity and a cat-hating room-mate. I've written two stories myself using the precepts of Schrödinger's cat and its endless possibilities. Come to think of it, Gareth L Powell has written one, too. Hmm, I see a themed anthology on the horizon-
'Tick Tock Curley Wurley' is another beautifully executed piece of flash fiction that is deceptively simple in plot. When a cryptic message arrives from an extra-terrestrial source, a professor finds that she must work on its interpretation, not just for scientific reasons, but for her own perceived social reasons, too. It's an intriguing title with an intriguing reason.
The final and longest story of the anthology is 'The Cloth From Which She Is Cut', a piece of adventurous space opera with some excellent concepts and a hint of the macabre. Former slave-turned-trader Anne Goldeneyed leads a crew of artificial and bio-engineered humans on a somewhat accidental quest to discover a lost civilisation. Anne's background is nicely developed, as are the feel of the ship and crew. It's a hugely enjoyable story that begs to have a sequel.
'Fun With Rainbows' is the first title from Immersion Press, a small press that promises an anthology featuring several well-known authors as well as future single-author anthologies. The quality of the publication is of a decent standard and I think Immersion Press is going to make a positive mark to the UK genre market.
You can read an interview with Immersion Press editor Carmelo Rafala here this month.
Gareth D. Jones
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