Book Review of:
‘PREMONITIONS: CAUSES FOR ALARM’
Edited by TONY LEE
(Pigasus Press - £5.95 – ISSN 0968-6185)
From the ‘Post Flesh’ cyber-art cover to the ‘Subterranean Gallery’ of dark slipstream texts within, this unsettling compilation of ‘Science Fiction, Horror Stories & Genre Poetry’ provides vivid vindication of the enduring power of print. David McGillveray’s “Revisions” is essentially a traditional SF tale of human colonists on an alien world, and the dreadful secret that lies within the remains of the Heechee-like extinct civilisation around them. Edinburgh-born McGillveray takes the familiar back-story ingredients of the AI-enhanced colony-ship with its crew in suspended animation seeking habitable planets, but renews it with Ornithological Archaeologists transcribing the sounds of enchanting chatterbirds who parrot the conversations of the Mileshlu dead, in attempts at piecing together the history of the world’s original inhabitants, and the secret of their demise. Well-drawn characters match pacey narrative to make the eventual truth - as the chatterbirds re-scream the alien’s final moments, both entirely logical, and strangely moving, posing the issue of a society surviving the legacy of genocide as relevant as the American extermination of its own native tribes-people. Fred Walker’s “Tentacles” extends its fictional roots yet further back to artfully craft a ‘Weird Tales’ replicant complete with carnivorous grandfather clock. While William Jackson’s darkly satirical “Mould & Mildew” charts the relationship arc from mediaspeak seduction to the Motel of Absolute Denial. Jim Steel’s “Jaw Jaw” postulates a ‘Neuspeak’ digital language, corrupted by the machine-logic scheming of its cuckolded protagonist. Sue Lange’s “Jump” is another more downbeat New Wavey Tank Girl take on a suicide-outbreak in a cityscape of urban disintegration. There’s more fiction too, buttressed by images of vast poetic eternity from Steve Sneyd, Cardinal Cox, JC Hartley and others. The one-off fiction anthology, and its speculative sub-genre, are currently in a weird place. Stalled between online attractions and big-name book-promotions. Here, the spread of themes spiralling a common nucleus, is a reminder just how virile and valuable a format it can be.
REVIEW BY ANDREW DARLINGTON