Fiction Reviews

Infinity Plus the Anthology

(2007) Keith Brooke and Nick Gevers (eds), Solaris, 9.99, pbk, 687pp, ISBN 1-84416-489-6

This volume collects together the previously published, limited edition anthologies Infinity Plus One (2001) and Infinity Plus Two (2003) which themselves are offshoots of the Infinity Plus website. This site, roughly speaking, is an author-led website, founded in 1997 (making this current volume something of a tenth anniversary celebration), wherein authors share self-selected stories that may now otherwise be hard to find, even if previously anthologised or collected. The site also has author interviews, portions of upcoming novels, and reviews. It is worth pointing out that the site is not exclusively SF, but also contains fantasy and (horrible term) speculative fiction; naturally enough this anthology contains the same kind of mix. I only mention it so that those readers who prefer their SF 'hard' and/or 'pure' (whatever that is) should not be disappointed when they discover that this book, despite a science fictional cover and the use of the term on the back cover blurb, is not exclusively SF. Not that that makes the non-SF herein 'bad' stories - many of them are very good - but even I was surprised that, of the 26-odd stories here, only about a quarter (using a very generous definition of sf) are actually science fiction; a great deal of the rest being outright fantasy or (another horrible term) magic realism. ((Aside: a friend was recently asked for a definition of magic realism and replied, correctly in my view, that they were fantasies that people didn't want putting on the fantasy shelves of bookshops, in much the same way that many horror books these days are now called dark fantasy)).

Contributors include (in order of appearance) Michael Swanwick, James Patrick Kelly, Kim Newman, Patrick O'Leary, Jeff VanderMeer, Ian R MacLeod, Michael Bishop, Garry Kilworth, Mary Gentle, Kit Reed, Tony Daniel, Paul Di Filippo, Kim Stanley Robinson, Lucius Shepard, Charles Stross, Stephen Baxter, Paul McAuley, Michael Moorcock, Ian McDonald, Lisa Goldstein, Brian Stableford, Vonda N McIntyre, Paul Park, Eric Brown, Terry Bisson, and Adam Roberts. The oldest story in the book is from 1973 (Vonda McIntyre's) and the most recent from 2002 (Adam Roberts'). As I have said before, anthologies should be thought of as 'samplers' to introduce the reader to the authors' respective works, and perhaps that is even more true in this case because the stories are self-selected by the authors (and not the editors). I see little point in listing my 'favourites' (though I do think that Lucius Shepard's really does stand out from the crowd) as you will no doubt have your own. I do think the website is a very worthwhile thing and am happy to recommend it but, as I mentioned, this anthology might not appeal to SF 'purists', but that is their problem...

Tony Chester

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