The author interview this time is with Simon Ings, juxtaposed with a review of his novel Wolves, set in a dystopian near future in which a global catastrophe is about to happen. Not one likely to find its way into my reading pile. In fact, of all the books reviewed here only one sparked my interest – Fiddlehead by Cherie Priest, one of her Clockwork Century series, steampunk adventures set in an alternative nineteenth century. Must look those up. Of the many film and TV reviews, those that I might see include Her (a very favourable review), Thor: The Dark World (also favourable), Ender's Game and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (both given rather lukewarm endorsements).
On to the short stories:
Ghost Story by John Grant, illustrated by Richard Wagner. A happily and faithfully married man is startled to receive a message from a family friend to say that she is pregnant, and he is the father. He arranges to meet her and finds their memories of the last few years to be entirely different. It gradually becomes clear that something is very wrong….
Ashes by Karl Bunker, illustrated by Jim Burns. In a world almost depopulated by disease, a man travels with a robot IA friend to find an appropriate place to bury the ashes of his partner. But something strange is happened to the IAs, who keep disappearing.
Old Bones by Greg Kurzawa, illustrated by Jim Burns. A horror story concerning an old man hiding in a city occupied by the enemy, and a surgeon who says he wants to help him. Baffling.
Fly Away Home by Suzanne Palmer, illustrated by Martin Hanford. A much longer novelette about a female engineer mining asteroids in a dystopian future in which the miners are effectively indentured for life and women are, at best, second class citizens. After being raped, she plots an elaborate revenge.
A Doll is Not A Dumpling by Tracie Welser, illustrated by Richard Wagner. Another robot IA, this time one that sells dumplings, is hijacked by people who want to use it for something entirely different. Rather mystifying.
This is How You Die by Gareth L Powell. Yet another dystopian future in which a flu-like lethal illness has destroyed society. Depressing, but fortunately very short.
For me, Palmer's story is the stand-out one and (probably not coincidentally) the nearest to a traditional SF tale. Although the plot summary does not sound encouraging, we are given a brave and resourceful heroine to cheer on. Of the others, Grant's tale is intriguing and well worth reading again. The rest are best not read by anyone who prefers light and optimistic fiction.