Posted by Harry Markov
As per with the last anthology I had the pleasure of reading “The Living Dead” I will be segmenting the review of “Subterfuge” into several posts of three stories. I am expecting a lot smoother run this time with five posts of short stories to come and a closing one with general and summarized feedback. Here is the official introduction: The book features a cover by award winning artist Andy Bigwood and fifteen original stories, themed on Subterfuge: A clever device or strategy used to evade a rule, escape a consequence, or to hide something.' Presenting original fantasy from the likes of Tanith Lee, Juliet E. McKenna, Neil Williamson and Sarah Singleton, SF from John Meaney, Neal Asher, Pat Cadigan, Tony Ballantyne and Jaine Fenn, slipstream from Gary Couzens and more... Full contents: 1. John Meaney – Emptier than Void 2. Jaine Fenn – Collateral Damage 3. Gary Couzens – Jubilee Summer 4. Juliet E. McKenna – Noble Deceit 5. Pat Cadigan – Tales from the Big Dark: Lie of the Land 6. Neil Williamson – Moth 7. Tony Ballantyne – Underbrain 8. Tanith Lee – Under Fog (The Wreckers) 9. Sarah Singleton – They Left the City at Night 10. Steve Longworth – The God Particle 11. Una McCormack – The Great Gig in the Sky 12. Nik Ravenscroft – Time, Like an Ever-Rolling Stream 13. Neal Asher – The Rhine’s World Incident 14. Nick Wood -- Thirstland 15. Dave Hutchinson – Multitude“Emptier than Void” by John Meaney, Pages 24: After my introduction to anthologies in general I have began to view them as intricate and intelligent puzzles, which reveal great intellect and smart design, if they are successful. As such the beginning story has the most responsible function. It has to open the doors to the readers and introduce the theme with a colorful, powerful or with a mixture of both presence. “Emptier than Void” succeeds as it introduces to a fast-paced action-packed science fiction story as a mind-reader combats his machine-induced monstrous hunger and functions as an assassin in order to receive treatment for his hunger. As a game of cat and mouse unravels, which is used as a base for the character’s contemplation on humanity and identity, players change their agendas every step of the way. Subterfuge is presented as cruel machinations and a game of chess. “Collateral Damage” by Jaine Fenn, Pages 14: As far as my genre recognition skills go I can tag this one as slipstream with a mélange of sci-fi and dystopian society. In the City politicians are bound to serve the city or else. Charlie’s Angels meets Big Brother and their bastard children are the Angels, City sanctioned assassins, who dispose of any politician found guilty of abusing their power. They can do what they can please with no questions asked. Collateral damage is shrugged off, but not all collateral damage is obvious. This is the lesson Malia, a new Angel, learns as she is sent on her first kill. I can speak of subterfuge here in the form of human insincerity and hidden motifs, which are my favorite kind of twist in a story. “Jubilee Summer” by Gary Couzens, Pages 12: One of the shortest stories in the anthology and for me also one of the least memorable and confusing as to where the element of subterfuge lay. The reader is introduced to Thea, who returns to her home town on a business trip, and follows her as she recalls her childhood memories of a friend long dead or maybe not quite. This one is quite mainstream, but with that air of mystique, where you sense that there is a million ways this can blossom into fantasy or sci-fi, but it doesn’t. I guess the beauty is in exactly that quality, although I didn’t exactly feel as drawn to it as the author had intended. Perhaps the otherworldly moments and the subterfuge lay on the contemplation and acceptance of death under a disguise. As I said I am not entirely certain.