01/03/2011. Contributed by Gareth D Jones
pub: Norilana Books. 217 page enlarged paperback. Price: $ 9.95 (US), GBP 8.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-60762-077-8.
check out websites: www.norilana.com and www.veranazarian.com
Vera Nazarian’s first Science Fiction collection, ‘After The Sundial’, brings together ten stories and poems from the past decade, two of them original to this anthology. Although the tales deal with SF tropes, they’re written in a lyrical style with fantasy overtones. Sometimes they appear to be a fantasy story until the SFnal elements are revealed, as in ‘Mount Dragon’ where a priest mutters incantations around a huge dragon-shaped mountain in order to bring it to life.
One of the most engaging stories is ‘A Time To Crawl’, a satire on a society that has turned its back on the elderly and left them to fend for themselves. Nelson is one of the crawlers, unable to walk anymore and refused help by state or an apathetic public, he is forced to crawl along the kerb, along with crowds of other unfortunates. His short journey to work becomes an epic tale, with the knowledge that without earning his own money, he will be left to starve to death. It’s a great extrapolation of a simple concept.
‘Port Custodial Blues’ is by far my favourite of the collection and the most unashamedly SF story which is probably why. Teal works on a space-station, cleaning the bizarre and varied toilet facilities of numerous alien species and becomes involved in the hunt for a missing data chip in the worst locations. It’s full of amusing detail and invention and was great fun to read.
‘The Clock King And The Queen Of The Hourglass’ was originally published as a novella by the well-regarded PS Publishing, so I had high hopes for it, especially as it takes up around half of the volume. Set in the far future of a dying Earth, it’s more science fantasy than anything else. There are some interesting concepts developed as we follow the restrictive life of Liaei, a girl created from ancient DNA in an attempt to reinvigorate the species. As long as you aren’t expecting any of the science mentioned to be particularly plausible, you can enjoy this often poignant coming-of-age tale.
There are several other quirky ideas developed, such as ‘The Ballad Of Universal Jack’ in which speech and time are mixed up in a complex mish-mash of quantum physics and philosophy. Hard-SF elements are softened by this approach, leading to an uncertainty in some cases over what the intention of the story is. In other cases, the narrator’s voice is a little overdone, becoming an omniscient viewpoint that tells of grand events, divorcing us from experiencing the events through a relatable character. There’s also an annoying habit of changing tense between sections, paragraphs or sometimes in the middle of a sentence. The whole effect could either be described as poetic or sloppy. Maybe my life-long SF habit has made me too critical. Those looking for more fantastical works may well find them more entertaining. I can certainly recommend the two stories mentioned above though.
Gareth D. Jones
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