The book reviews in the latest issue include some highly-regarded ones. Sockpuppet by Matthew Blakstad is very topical, being concerned with the breakdown in security of a huge government Digital Citizen ID programme. I have to say that the subject doesn't much enthuse me (I prefer something more escapist rather than having my nose rubbed into all-too-likely near-future disaster scenarios), but I feel I probably ought to read it - sometime. I'm not so sure the same applies to The Thing Itself by Adam Roberts, a psychological thriller concerning the relationship between two people stuck together on a remote Antarctic base (well, I suppose that all Antarctic bases are by definition remote, but you know what I mean). Another well-reviewed book is Down Station by Simon Morden, concerned a very disparate group of people using the London Underground who find themselves in an alternate world. A different kind of disaster scenario, in that the focus is very much on the group relationships as they all struggle to survive. I have to say that I didn't much like Equations of Life by the same author, so I probably won't pick this one up either. Oh well, at least I won't be adding to my reading pile this month.
On to the short stories:
Ten Confessions of Blue Mercury Addicts, by Anna Spencer, by Alexander Marsh Freed, illustrated by Jim Burns. An addictive drug speeds up reactions to such a degree that it allows users to run many times faster than normal, but there's a heavy price to pay.
Spine, by Christopher Fowler, illustrated by Richard Wagner. A classic SF/Horror story; what happens if oceanic life gets fed up with being dumped on and decides to fight back? Do not expect a happy ending.
Not Recommended for Guests of a Philosophically Uncertain Disposition, by Michelle Ann King. The Fracture – a remote and mysterious tourist attraction in which visitors find themselves in a different world, more hinted at than explained.
Motherboard, by Jeffrey Thomas, illustrated by Martin Hanford. A young man works at a Far-East computer assembly factory and is fascinated by the resemblance of the motherboards to a city seen from above. With a lot of imagination, he can even imagine being in the city; really being in the city!
Lotto by Rich Larson, illustrated by Richard Wagner. The future lies in the stars and vast colony ships leave at regular intervals, taking the chosen few. They are selected by lottery, but the large camps which have formed around the emigration base have developed their own sub-cultures.
Andromeda of the Skies, by E. Catherine Tobler, illustrated by Richard Wagner. A dream-like fantasy in which a young girl who falls through a frozen lake seems to remain alive in a different kind of existence.
The stand-out story here (albeit in a hair-raising kind of way) is unsurprisingly the one by long-established fantasy/horror author Christopher Fowler, but I was also intrigued by Jeffrey Thomas's tale.