Reviewed by Stewart Horn
A collection of five novellas in one volume. I’ll talk briefly about each story first:
‘What becomes God’: Young Brian’s father is dead, his mother alcoholic and neglectful, and his best friend is dying of cancer. He decides that the only way he might save his friend is by sacrificing something to the god in the woods. This is a stunning piece of work: beautifully written, insightful, and with compellingly real characters.
‘Object Permanence’: Our protagonist wakes up in an asylum, escapes using his psychic super-powers and sets out to reclaim his family and get revenge, but his enemy has super-powers too. It sounds like a plot from a Western re-told through the prism of The Twilight Zone, but it’s more complex and satisfying than that – it’s a study in memory, the potentially destructive effects of nostalgia, and the abuse of power.
‘Love in the Time of Zombies’: The zombie apocalypse happens and in this town only two men survive. What follows is a love story, of sorts, with comedy and gore thrown in. There is some subtext but it’s the lightest and possibly the most entertaining story in the book.
‘The Long Long Breakdown’: The ice caps have melted and much of the world is now under water. Miami is now part of the Atlantic with one man and his daughter surviving in the top few storeys of an apartment block. This is beautiful. The man has to be apparent as well as he can with no society to support him, and all the old certainties gone. The flooded city with a few of the tallest buildings still poking out is a splendid metaphor for the man’s fading memories and everything else he’s lost.
‘The Visitation’: There is a planet where all the ghosts go, and peoples from all over the galaxy visit to see their loved ones again. A delicious blend of sci-fi and ghost story that blends the subtle threat from both genres perfectly. Ghosts or sentient robots – which is creepier?
This is a splendid book. The individual novellas are strong, but the whole works really well, seeming to tell a whole life story, albeit with different characters in different time periods. Original ideas and well-drawn characters, told in beautifully smooth prose. Truly excellent.