Publishers Weekly Review

Ian Watson. Golden Gryphon (IPG, dist.), $23.95 (283 p) ISBN 1-930846-09-6

This collection of 19 stories by Hugo- and Nebula-finalist Watson showcases the author's knack for contemporary dark fantasy, often blended with an SF chaser. In "Caucus Winter" and "Three-Legged Dog," artificial intelligences take intriguing roles in rebellion and murder, respectively. Likewise in "Nanunculus," an intelligent program from the future "haunts" an unbalanced mathematician, attempting to keep him from committing suicide before he can finish the work necessary to the development of time travel. "When Thought-Mail Failed" reprises the fear and chaos of E. M. Forster's 1909 classic, "The Machine Stops." In two of the best stories here, the denizens of hell take matters into their own hands in "The Great Escape," while a famous fictional detective who suddenly appears on a starship in hyperspace cracks a tough case in "The Shape of Murder." A few stories disappoint by merely offering speculative ideas without fully exploring them, such as "A Day Without Dad," where the expense of nursing-home care forces adult children to "host" their parents inside their own brains. Likewise "Ahead!" and "Early, in the Evening" offer unconvincing futures created by unconventional technology run amok. In his introduction, Watson writes, "human consciousness is not the source of tales it is the product of tales," and therefore the telling of tales is "fundamental to our whole existence and to our knowledge of the world." That philosophy underlies this diverse and thoughtful volume, the first U.S. story collection for this British author. (May)
FYI: Watson worked in 1990-1991 with Stanley Kubrick on story development for last summer's A.I.-Artificial Intelligence, for which he received screen credit for screen story.

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