Rocket Science - Archieved Post

August 25, 2012 - 6:20 pm No Comments

Meet Ken Norman . . . Ken read every single S.F. book in Rotherham library during the period 1987-1989. Running out of books to read was so traumatic that he had to read some fantasy. Fortunately, he realised that other books could be good too and his horizons were expanded. Now he can read almost any kind of book, but still falls back to S.F. from time to time. Ken holds down a job, has hobbies and even managed to reproduce in his spare time.

Reviewing an anthology seems a tricky task; there are many stories and I’m hardly going to give you a short synopsis of each one in turn. However, there is a convenient theme throughout this collection of tales that gives you a clue about what you, the reader, are in for. If all you ever dreamed of revolves around getting into orbit and visiting one of our neighbouring planets, specifically Mars, this is the anthology for you.

The introduction promises stories about space travel without the kind of guff you’d get in your average “sci-fi” movie. This type of hard science based fiction typically draws from current real science, of which there’s plenty here, but there’s also some more historical stuff. Several of the stories are concerned with the business, both practical and political, of getting people off this rock and onto another one. We are exploring the possibilities of the Number 45 bus to Mars here. Despite the lead story being a little whimsical, the promised space-faring tales come thick and fast. There are also several interludes scattered through the book: these more technical accounts are almost a historical backbone that put flesh on some of the fictional constructions. It’s been a while since I read an anthology using this device and it really works quite well here, despite one of them needing at least a diagram or two. There is an engaging mix of alternate history, near future and techno space opera, and almost all of it tries to explain itself in a technical fashion. There’s even a bit of fortune telling: one plucky author tells us of “the billion dollar crater made by the SkyCrane”. Unfortunately for this author, that crater didn’t happen, so I think another alt-universe may have just sprung into existance.

The stories tend to come up on the short side; there’s no novella length prose to get your teeth into here. As a holiday read, or just to dip in and out of on the bus, each tale has the advantage of brevity, so at least you are less likely to miss your stop.

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