CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 11 . . . .January 19, 2007
Tesseracts Ten: A Celebration of New Canadian Speculative Fiction.
Robert Charles Wilson & Edo van Belkom, eds.
Calgary, AB: Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, 2006.
301 pp., pbk., $20.95.
Science fiction, Canadian (English).
Fantastic fiction, Canadian (English).
Canadian fiction (English)-21st century.
Short stories, Canadian (English).
Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.
Review by Ronald Hore.
"I could use some help with an Adonis 6000."
Sukey's eyes lit up. "An Adonis 6000 you say?"
I held up a hand for silence. "Spare me the wise cracks. The, ah, client also wants an upgrade, but I'm out of parts. I wasn't going to ask Spolanski for them. Not with the mood he's in today."
"I've got spare parts," Sukey said, way too quickly. "I could use a little stress relief today. Just transfer the work order to my queue."
What she was suggesting was highly unethical. But if Sukey could fix the Adonis 6000 that was one more job out of my queue and one less thing for Spolanski to yell at me for. And I could pretend that I hadn't heard her plans to take an unsuspecting client's Adonis 6000 for a test drive.
"Your shots are up to date?" I shouldn't have asked. But hey, the last thing I needed was someone giving the Adonis 6000 a disease and trying to pin it on me.
Sukey shot me a dark look back.
"Never mind," I said. "The less I know the better."
So now that I'd provided Sukey with an afternoon's diversion, I needed somewhere to hide myself.
This is not your grandmother's Science Fiction; besides, it's called Speculative Fiction now. We're not in Kansas any more, but the good news is there should be something for almost everyone here. This is a new anthology of 20 Canadian Speculative Fiction tales, plus a pair of commentaries by the editors. The book is a soft cover 51/2" x 81/2" size of 306 pages. The collection shows the wide range that falls within this category of literature and includes poetry and English translations of works by French-Canadian authors.
Tesseracts Ten opens with "A Nervous Look Down a Dark Road," a thoughtful look back at some of the history of the growth of Science Fiction by one of the editors.
"Threshold of Perception" takes us back to 1910 and a different view of Percival Lowell and his claims of the discovery of canals on Mars.
"Frankenstein's Monster's Wife's Therapist" is a brief poem not much longer than the title. You may smile.
"Puss Reboots" starts out with repair problems on a virtual kitty, far out in deep space. The protagonist is a female repair technician facing everyday problems at work which are bad enough. Then her day really starts to go downhill when she is called in to work on an Adonis 6000, a virtual gigolo.
The next short story, "Au pays des merveilles" is set in a future where books are considered antiques and people who read them are considered odd.
"Donovan's Brain" looks at artificial intelligence taken to extremes.
In "The Undoing," we come across a culture where punishment of criminals is also taken to what we would consider extreme, starting off with a literal eye for an eye.
"Blackbird Shuffle (The Major Arcana)" is an unusual tale of two travellers on a lonely highway in Northern Ontario.
The "Ideo Radio Poem" is a plea by robots for fair labour practices at McMaster University.
"Women are from Mars, Men are from Venus" is one of the translations from the French and "almost" a traditional space exploration story. Like most of the tales in this collection, there is a twist, with a female techie, sexual politics and danger on Mars.
The story "Closing Time" transports us to ancient China and a problem a young man has feeding his father's loquacious and hungry ghost.
"Go Tell the Phoenicians" returns us to the exploration of distant worlds and the danger of taking things for granted when you are negotiating trading rights.
In "Buttons," we take a look at the French Revolution through the eyes of a girl who is an involuntary time-traveller.
"Findings at the Dump" is another one-page poem, this time about where the garbage ends up.
The tale of "The Girl From Ipanema" takes the search for love into a virtual world.
"The Intruder" covers the familiar story of exploration but tells it from the point of view of the locals.
In the yarn "Angel of Death," the author blends a future extreme fighting sport with the evolution of differences and backroom deals that make the fight even more vicious.
"Transplant" takes a woman who is sexually harassed at work and allows her to consider revenge.
The other French translation, "Phantom Love," is a story involving a beautiful courtesan and her lover sharing secrets.
"Permission" returns the reader to a distant world and a woman trying to escape her life on her dreary farm.
The final fiction story, "Summer Silk," tells the tale of a mother with a deep fear of spiders.
"Canadian SF Comes of Age" is the wrap-up commentary by the anthology's second editor commenting on the growth of Canadian SF over the decades.
The book ends with seven pages of biographies of the writers who participated in this collection. The final five pages provide information on more volumes from this publisher.
The anthology illustrates the broad range of topics and writing styles that falls into the collective basket known as Speculative Fiction. The stories won't appeal to everyone, but the good news is there should be something in here for almost every taste. The collection includes short poems of only seven lines all the way up to stories of 30 pages in length. With a growing pool of writing to choose from, this bodes well for Canadian SF. The popularity of the genre is exemplified by the split in writers from what may once long ago have been thought a mainly male bastion. In this anthology, we have eight male writers and thirteen female authors, while a generous variety both of male and female protagonists inhabit the stories.
Ronald Hore, involved with writer's groups and writer's workshops for several years, retired from the business world in Winnipeg, MB.
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