(2013) Adam Roberts, Gollancz, £12.99, trdpbk, 389pp, ISBN 978-0-575-13034-0
This is a collection of short fiction by the author Adam Roberts. In the preface, Roberts states that he was working towards exploring all the common themes and sub-genres of science fiction. The stories are previously published with four being original to this book.
A tone that connects a lot of the stories is a sense of dark humour or satire. Religion is a recurring theme from the examination of familiar stories in ‘Adam Robots’ to fundamentalism and repression in ‘Constellations’. There are also new approaches to older material such as ‘The World of the Wars’ and ‘Pied’. The best of these is ‘And tomorrow and ‘ dealing with the precise wording of the prophecies in ‘Macbeth’. The highlight of the collection for me, is ‘The Imperial Army’ a dissection of military science fiction space operas and trying to fight long term wars that goes into very dark directions.
However, I felt that the stories had a tendency to convey a distancing effect. They are well written and good explorations of the ideas the narrative is dealing with. Still, often they come across as lacking a sense of engagement with the characters. You are aware of the intelligence of what you are reading, but it becomes something easier to admire the cleverness rather than emotionally care. It is the same problem I have with Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk. The material is intelligent but you feel that the author is not really having any feeling for the figures he pushes across a board to get from A to B.
Despite this, there is clearly very good material in the collection. It may just be that the distancing effect is caused by trying to read it all in one sitting. Or this collection may be more suited for readers who already fans of the work of this author rather than complete newcomers.
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