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On Books

by Peter Heck

By Charles Stross
Tordotcom, $27.99 (hc)
ISBN: 978-1-250-83037-4

This is Stross’s second novel in the “New Management” extension of his “Laundry Files” series, set in an England where the government has been replaced by one of H.P. Lovecraft’s Elder Gods. Magical abilities have become wide­spread in the population—in fact, all the major characters in this novel are “meta­humans,” with powers ranging from the ability to bring drawings to life to being able to shoot fireballs from one’s fingers.

The core characters are returnees from Dead Lies Dreaming, the initial book in this new set. Eve Starkey, the personal assistant to mad billionaire Rupert Bigge who was apparently killed off in that book, has taken over his businesses, which she soon learns are even more complicated than she knew. Her brother, Imp, is a slacker who lives with his crew in the former family mansion. And Wendy Deere, a former police officer, now works for a private investigating outfit; her latest assignment is looking into a case of adulterated meat products in a downscale London supermarket, FlavrsMart. We also meet Amy, a Human Resources worker at FlarvrsMart who discovered the problem in the meat department and discharged the worker responsible.

Another important subplot involves Mary MacCandless, who takes a job as nanny for the four children of a famous superhero couple who are about to go on vacation. The nanny job is a cover for a plot to kidnap the kids. But as Mary quickly learns, the kids have superpowers of their own, and attention spans typical of preschoolers. Things get especially dicey as she takes them on a road trip and has to figure out how to keep them occupied. All the pre-planning in the world isn’t going to be enough to bring this caper off without significant collateral damage.

Meanwhile, Eve has discovered that her former employer was, in addition to all his other holdings, the feudal lord of an obscure Channel Island, Skaro. And after investigating the secret file her old boss kept on her, she realizes she needs to make a visit to the island to sort things out. Of course, upon arrival, new complications arise; she’s now effectively expected to assume Bigge’s role as feudal lord—a role that includes leading the local cult.

Stross develops these plot strands, with the various actors deploying their trans­human powers against zombies, cultists, paramilitary goons, even a tyrannosaurus rex. It all inevitably comes together in a rousing climax, with Eve et al. combining forces to stave off fresh horrors. It’s pulled off with considerable wit, with allusions to a wide range of pop culture and SF classics. Highly recommended, although if you haven’t read Dead Lies Dreaming, the first in this new series, you might want to find that one first.

*   *   *

by Harry Turtledove
Tor, $ 26.99 (hc)
ISBN: 978-1-250-82972-6

Turtledove offers an alternate history set in the early 1970s—considerably closer to the present than most examples of the subgenre. In addition to alternate history—Turtledove’s unquestioned forte—it’s also unequivocally a science fiction story, built around a first contact with an advanced alien civilization.

The protagonist is Jerry Stieglitz, a grad student in oceanography at UCLA. He’s engaged to be married, working on a dissertation on whale songs, starting to sell the occasional SF story to pro markets, and generally happy with how his life is going when a knock comes on his apartment door. It’s the CIA—and they’re here to offer him the chance of a lifetime. The Glomar Explorer, an enormous ship designed to mine the ocean floor, is headed off on a secret mission, and they want him aboard to offer a plausible scientific rationale for the mission. Of course, they don’t tell him that at first.

The offer has its tricky aspects, of course. He’ll have to put his teaching assistantship on hold for the duration, but his department chair is okay with that. He’ll also have to postpone the wedding, a somewhat trickier prospect. But the recruiters are offering enough money to convince him and his fiancée Anna that it’s a reasonable choice. Most important, though, is the stipulation that he can’t tell anyone the details of the mission—“or you’ll wish you’d never been born,” as the CIA guy tells him.

Once he’s accepted his assignment, Jerry learns about the secret. There’s a wrecked Soviet submarine on the ocean floor about three miles down in the Pacific, and the ship’s on a mission to raise it so the US can uncover its secrets. Obviously, the Soviets are expected to do whatever they can to prevent anyone else from getting hold of the sub—assuming they find out that’s what the mining ship is up to.

But there’s a secret behind the secret, as Jerry finds out after the ship’s under way. The sub isn’t the only thing lying on the Pacific floor. Next to it is an alien spacecraft, apparently undamaged, and it looks as if the aliens’ weapons are what blew up the sub. The Explorer is going to raise the alien ship, not the sub—and that’s why Jerry’s credentials as an SF writer are relevant to his being chosen for the mission.

Much of the middle part of the book follows the expedition and the process of raising the spaceship. Turtledove throws in a tasty smorgasbord of period color, from early seventies pop music to the political drama of the Watergate investigation and Nixon’s resignation. (He gets some fun from the conflict between Jerry’s anti-Nixon feelings and the CIA and military men’s knee-jerk support of the president—with occasional foreshadowing of more recent political rumblings.) And there are also some inside looks at the SF writing profession, from an author who came up at roughly the same time as the book’s protagonist—including appearances of a couple of prominent writers of the era.

The story doesn’t end with the raising of the spaceship—in fact, that’s when it becomes even more interesting. Turtledove generates several unexpected plot twists, with a high level of tension both for Jerry and those close to him and in the wider arena the discovery of an alien spaceship naturally implies. A solid page-turner with a sense of humor and a good layer of thoughtful commentary on deeper issues. Don’t miss this one.

*   *   *

by Jane Lindskold
Baen, $16.00 (tp)
ISBN: 978-1-9821-2591-2

by Jane Lindskold
Baen, $16.00 (tp)
ISBN: 978-1-9821-2602-5

The first of a new series from Lindskold, this novel begins with three women from our world who are at a book club meeting when they are suddenly transported into an alternate world. They have been summoned by three young residents of that world—where all the residents have animals’ heads on human bodies—to help them achieve three urgent tasks.

Xerak, who has a lion’s head, is a young wizard whose master has disappeared mysteriously, and he seeks the women’s help in recovering him. Grunwold, who wears a stag’s head, seeks a cure for a deadly disease that his father has contracted. And Vereez, whose head is that of a fox, wants their help to find her missing sister. The three Earth women—Meg, a retired librarian; Peg, a former lounge singer who’s now a grandmother; and Teg (Tessa), an archaeology professor at the nearby university—agree to help, despite their suspicion that the three young people aren’t telling the whole story about their problems.

This sends them traveling across the alternate world—which Peg whimsically names “Over Where”—in search of the library after which the book is named, a site all but destroyed in a magical cataclysm a few decades ago. Various adventures ensue, with the Earth women gradually learning more about their hosts and the world they inhabit—which, despite its advanced magic, is on a more primitive technological level than their own.

When they reach the library—which is not only severely damaged, but surrounded by dangerous magical creatures—they learn something that sends their quest in an entirely new direction. The book ends with an obvious cliffhanger, setting up the second book. In that book, it turns out that the three young inhabitants of the magical world haven’t been entirely open about the reasons they’ve brought the three mentors to their world. What’s more, there’s a complicated backstory that involves the young people’s parents—and eventually leads them on an even more dangerous quest.

A nice fantasy from Lindskold—I enjoyed the characters and the setting as much as the adventure itself. While the second volume comes to a firmer conclusion than the first, I’d say there’s still room for a lot more in this universe. I’d certainly be interested in seeing it, if the author decides to come back for another serving or two.

*   *   *

by Mercedes Lackey and Cody Martin
CAEZIK, $27.99
ISBN: 978-1-64710-036-0

Lackey, recently chosen as a Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association, teams up with Martin for a story that includes elements of space opera, fantasy, and noir detective fiction—all handled with a tongue-in-cheek style that I found irresistable.

The story is set in a future several decades after a zombie outbreak—which was defeated, but as a result, a whole menagerie of other monsters of myth and legend is now at large in the world. In addition to the surviving zombies, there are vampires, werewolves, leprechauns, sasquatch, and other less familiar entities. Naturally, these creatures have found ways to fit into society, holding down jobs that call on their innate skills. In particular, there’s a call for the undead as crew for long-distance starships. Makes perfect sense—what better niche for a crew that can theoretically live forever?

The book breaks into four sections, the first of which takes place on a starship with a mixed crew of vampires, zombies, and one werewolf. The vampires are the officers, the werewolf is the engineer, and the zombies, being essentially brainless, are assigned to do the scutwork. But one zombie turns out to have retained the ability to think, and he isn’t happy with the way the vampires are running the mission—especially when they treat the zombies as literally disposable pieces. Sensing that the werewolf is equally unhappy with the status quo, he engineers a takeover of the ship, and off they go to find someplace where they can live hassle-free.

Enter the Boggart—a figure out of English folklore, now working as a private eye. Hired by the authorities to locate the now-missing spaceship, he sets out to hunt it down—with an eye to maximizing his payment for expenses, naturally. This takes us through a number of entertaining adventures, with a considerable element of comedy, until he catches up with the werewolf and zombie. I won’t spoil what happens after that, other than to say that I think readers will appreciate the rest of it.

As with all collaborations of this kind, it’s really silly for an outsider to try to guess how much either author is responsible for, let alone what parts are whose. Lackey and Martin have a number of joint projects to their credit, so they’re obviously comfortable working together. SF as a genre seems to be especially congenial to collaborations—any reader can supply a long list, dating back to the earliest days. This one is certainly enjoyable enough that I’m looking forward to seeing if they have plans for more in this same universe.

*   *   *

By John Birmingham
Del Rey, $28.99 (hc)
ISBN: 978-1-984-82055-6

A sequel to Birmingham’s The Cruel Stars, this military space opera continues the adventures of a motley group fighting the invasion of the greater human empire by a group of fanatical human genetic purists known as the Sturm.

The Sturm’s initial attack was supported by the scrambling of the computers that calculate the defending fleet’s tactics and strategy and by the release of a virus that turns cybernetically enhanced humans into zombies. Only those without enhancements and whose computers were for some reason offline have survived to lead the resistance. Here as in the previous volume, the major characters are Commander Lucinda Hardy, a young officer of humble origins who now commands one of the few functional warships available to resist the Sturm; retired Admiral Frazer McLennan, an irascible veteran who defeated the Sturm in a long-ago battle with the help of his autonomous combat computer Herodotus; Sephina L’trel, a pirate who was Lucinda’s former roommate in an orphanage; and teenaged Princess Alessia, the sole survivor of the royal house that ruled one of the richer planets in the human empire.

As this volume begins, the Sturm forces are trying to determine why their initial invasion failed to achieve complete success. Captain Revell has been assigned to find out the whereabouts of McLennan, who from the Sturm’s viewpoint is an infamous war criminal. Princess Alessia is also on his target list, as she represents a figure around whom resistance to the Sturm could be assembled. On the empire’s side, two ships—Hardy’s Defiant and Sephina’s Ariane—are in search of outposts that have survived the Sturm’s initial assault, hoping to rally enough defensive forces to turn the tide back in their favor.

The search takes them on a wild odyssey through the fringes of the empire closest to the invading forces, from orbiting military space stations to long-settled planets. Everywhere they see evidence of the Sturm’s attack on cybernetic systems and enhanced humans, though some have taken more damage than others. At the same time, the pursuing forces press closer—and occasionally manage to make brief contact.

Birmingham keeps the tension up, bringing in new characters and challenges for the protagonists. At the same time, he keeps the tone from becoming too deadly serious with sharp byplay between the characters—McLennan and Herodotus are particularly fond of sniping at each other, and Sephina has an irrepressible punkish disdain for authorities and institutions—an attitude that, curiously enough, wins the admiration of the princess. This combination of universe-shaking events and devil-may-care humor has deep roots in space opera, the obvious example being Star Wars—with which this series has obvious similarities, though it’s much more than a carbon copy. Birmingham plays it for good effect, which is the real point.

While this action-packed volume settles a number of intermediate plotlines, there’s still plenty to come—as an epilogue makes clear. I’m looking forward to the next book, as I suspect most other fans of space opera will.

*   *   *

by Rory Power
Del Rey, $27.00 (hc)
ISBN: 978-0-593-35497-1

Power, who hit YA bestseller lists with Wilder Girls, turns her hand to adult fantasy with this book, announced as the first of a duology.

The novel is set in a world where a ruling elite have godlike powers. The two primary characters, Rhea and Alexandros, are the twin adult children of the Stratagiozi of Thyzakos, one of a group of small countries in a loose confederation. Each is hundreds of years old, and each has power over several natural processes. Rhea controls the change of seasons, which she exerts by marrying at the beginning of each season and then killing her spouse to bring about the new season. Alexandros, known familiarly as Lexos, determines the tides and the movement of the moon and stars. Their brother Nitsos prefers to spend his time tinkering with complex machinery, while their younger sister Chrysanthi has stepped into the role of cook and mistress of the household.

As the book begins, Rhea is returning from her latest marriage, and the family is preparing for the choice of Rhea’s new spouse—to be picked from young men sent by the leaders of several smaller divisions of Thyzakos. As it turns out, Lexos and their father, whom the younger family members all call “Baba,” are promoting different candidates—both based on political considerations. Baba favors the son of the steward of Rhokera, a union that would strengthen bonds between Thyzakos and one of its strongest neighbors. But Lexos sees the strongest threat as coming from the northern territory of Ksigora, where a separatist movement appears to be coalescing. To forestall this, Lexos has—without consulting his father—invited the son of the steward of Laxaris to compete for Rhea’s hand. While the final decision is Rhea’s, the choice will have a significant effect on Baba’s control over the confederation.

The suitors arrive, and both Baba and Lexos make their cases to Rhea. After mingling with them at a tension-filled dinner, she makes her choice—going against Baba’s preference to select Michali, the Laxaris heir. Almost immediately, she is on her way north to her new husband’s land—a place she has never before visited. There, she quickly learns that the separatist movement is real—and that the separatists have excellent reasons for wanting independence. And she discovers an entirely unexpected side to her own history and identity.

Meanwhile, Baba and Lexos attend a meeting of the leaders of the various members of the confederation, hoping to shore up relations with some of the members. This does not go as well as expected, and they return home with diminished hopes. Even some Lexos thought of as reliable friends are not entirely supportive. It looks very much as if war is coming—possibly from more than one direction. Worse yet, it’s not entirely clear whose side Rhea might be on when it comes.

In a Garden Burning Gold has an evocative setting and intriguing characters, reminiscent of the nature deities found in Greek, Roman, and other early mythologies. The author draws on roots that are less common than the faux-medieval style that most modern fantasy writers rely on, and gives it her own original twist. Very enjoyable and highly recommended.

*   *   *

By Rob Hart
Ballantine, $28.00 (hc)
ISBN: 978-1-984-82064-8

From the author of The Warehouse, reviewed here a couple of issues back, comes a mystery set in a hotel for time travelers.

January Cole is the house detective, and as the novel opens, the staff is getting ready for a major event: a meeting of prospective buyers for the property. As we learn, the hotel—up until now operated by the government—has never really paid its way. So the place has been put up for sale, and four billionaires are expected to compete for it. A senator, who’s rumored to have ambitions for a presidential run, is on hand to oversee things for the government. With so many bigwigs about to arrive, January’s in for what could be a high-stress couple of days.

Of course there are complications. For one thing, the hotel is haunted—possibly a side effect of its proximity to the time-travel site. And a major snowstorm is coming, which means there’s been an unusually high number of stranded rich people who insist on first-class treatment no matter who it inconveniences. Possibly most important, January herself is “unstuck”—meaning that she has episodes of seeing brief glimpses of past and future events. And the one she’s seeing now is a dead body in one of the hotel rooms.

Nobody else can see the body, and January can’t really examine it properly because she can’t touch it or search its pockets. But she’s pretty sure she saw the character in the lobby before he showed up dead, so she knows it’s a future problem, not in the past. She instructs her robot assistant—a flying box called Ruby—to close off the room it’s in while she tries to figure things out. The possibility of a murder is the last thing she needs with all the big spenders lining up to buy the place—and insisting on being treated in accordance with their status.

But when she’s the only one who can see the body, it’s nearly impossible to get anyone to take her seriously—especially with the tension building over the sale of the property and all the political implications hinging on it. Hart has found an intriguing twist on the locked-room mystery, and with the added interest of the time travel angle, this one’s particularly fun. SF mysteries are a well-established subgenre by now, so it’s by no means easy to come up with something fresh. Hart gets a gold star for this entertaining whodunit.

*   *   *

DRAGON’S HEIR: A Book of the Efilu Legacy
by Glenn Parris
Outland, $19.95 (tp)
ISBN: 978-1-954255-24-1

Parris offers up a first-contact story—told primarily from the point of view of the aliens, who call themselves Efilu. And, as it turns out, the aliens are descended from Earth’s dinosaurs, who had a highly advanced society some 65 million years ago when they were forced to flee the planet. They’ve sent back an expedition to look for an essential algae that has inexplicably become poison on the worlds they now inhabit.

The expedition is led by Tur, a member of the So Wari people—10-ton herbivores that may be descended from Stegosaurus. Also on the roster is archaeologist Vit Na. She is a Melkyz—super-predators whose earthly ancestors were probably similar to Dienonychus. Despite being of dissimilar species, Tur and Vit Na are best friends—actually, not a particularly unusual state of affairs in the Elifu society. They are accompanied by a crew of specialists in all the disciplines that may turn out to be of value in recovering the algae from a planet that no Efilu have visited since its long-ago abandonment. A few members of a group referred to as “Keepers” are known to have remained on Earth to help maintain it from becoming completely uninhabitable—but nothing has been heard from them in all the years since.

The Efilu expedition makes a number of intermediate stops, hoping to find surviving traces of the algae on other worlds they had settled in the exodus from Fitu, the name they give their planet of origin. But success eludes them, and they arrive at last in our Solar System—where (surprise!) they discover that their home planet is now under the control of mammals, a sort of organism they look upon as vermin. Worse yet, the mammals have achieved a degree of technological sophistication, as they discover when some of their probes are met with armed resistance.

The mammals are of course human beings, at roughly the present time, and their reaction to an invasion of what they can only interpret as monsters is pretty much what you would expect. But the Efilu’s technology—not to mention their evolved abilities that to human eyes appear frankly supernatural—allows them to set up undetected bases at several points around the world, notably next to an Alaskan military base. This leads to interactions resulting in the capture and interrogation of Vit Na—an event that the U.S. military responds to in paranoid fashion. While the Efilu, and especially Vit Na, are very much the “good guys” here, a few of the military personnel show greater sympathy than the officers in charge. But her experience in the hands of the humans confirms everything the Efilu believe of these inferior creatures.

The expedition eventually returns home, its central mission accomplished, but the conclusion sets up additional conflicts both between the Efilu and the mammals inhabiting a planet they still consider their own, and between factions in Efilu society. A sequel appears likely, and it promises to be interesting.

There have been other “intelligent dinosaur” stories in SF before, including Rob Sawyer’s “Farseer” series, but this one takes an entertaining new angle by bringing them to modern-day Earth. Parris’s dinosaur-descended characters are well-imagined and the world of the Efilu is complex and colorful. Well worth gettng your hands on.

*   *   *

by Robert Jackson Bennett
Del Rey, $28.99 (hc)
ISBN: 978-1-984-82067-9

This ambitious conclusion of the “Foundryside” trilogy picks up the characters’ stories several years after the conclusion of Shorefall, when a powerful new sorcerer, Tevanne, emerged. The protagonists, Sanchia and Bernice, along with Clef, a nearly immortal mage now embodied in a key, have joined a society that uses magical technology to meld its members into a collective consciousnesses.

But while they and their allies have slowed the expansion of Tevanne’s powerful inflence, it is clear that the fight is one-sided—and, unless something radical changes, is doomed to defeat. The enemy has taken over most of the continent, enslaving a huge population that can be converted to zombie-like armies to conquer any area Tevanne sets his sights on. To oppose this, the protagonists have a modest number of allies, organized in an island- and ship-dwelling society that takes advantage of the ability to combine several minds into a shared personality to take on complex tasks.

They quickly come to the realization that, unless they take their fight to the enemy, they will be hunted down and exterminated. The plan they settle on is to infiltrate inside a “deadlamp”—equivalent to a flying tank powered by magic, captured from Tevanne in the battle that opens this volume. Their destination is a prison deep in the interior of the continent, protected by all the forces the enemy has available. There they hope to find Cespedes, an ancient sorcerer whose powers may be a match for those of Tevanne.

But arriving at the prison that is their initial goal—a hard-won victory in and of itself—only opens up a still more challenging task to be solved. Cespedes and Clef have a long shared history, and it is in their relationship that the ultimate answers will be discovered. That requires a wrenching journey into the distant past, and a series of confrontations that the allies have no guarantee of winning.

This is ultimately a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, revealing the previously hidden links between important elements and bringing resolution to the major themes. I’m not sure whether a reader who hasn’t gotten to know the characters and main plotlines from the two earlier books will have much success getting into it; in fact, I found myself at a few points in the earlier chapters wondering if I shouldn’t have reread the previous volume before starting this one. Nonetheless, the book delivers the kick expected from the final chapter of a trilogy, and I have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone who’s enjoyed the first two books—although they may well want to review them before launching into the final volume.

*   *   *

by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Del Rey, $28.00 (hc)
ISBN: 978-0-593-35533-6

Here’s a re-imagining of H.G. Wells’ 1896 novel, The Island of Doctor Moreau, with the setting transposed from a Pacific island to Yucatan, and a new character—Carlota, the daughter from whom the book takes its title.

As in Wells’ story, Dr. Moreau is a scientist experimenting on the outer fringes of biology, creating “hybrids” who incorporate animal characteristics while approaching human intelligence and appearance. The novel is told from two viewpoints, those of Carlota and of Montgomery, the doctor’s assistant—other than Moreau, the only character the book has in common with Wells’ original.

The story begins with the arrival of Montgomery, portrayed as an alcoholic loser trying to forget a tragic past. Working for Moreau, in a remote section of Yucatan, isolates him from the memory of his lost lover and from the temptations of city life. We also get a look at Carlota’s close relationship with some of the younger hybrids, who appear to have a fair amount of jaguar in their heredity.

After this setup, we jump ahead several years. Carlota is now a young woman, and her hybrid friends are also near maturity. She has taken on more tasks around the compound, although her father still keeps some aspects of his research private. And Montgomery has become established, a close collaborator with Moreau in his work—again, not privy to all the doctor’s secrets. Everyone seems more or less content with the status quo, although Montgomery still takes to the bottle to drown his memories from his earlier life.

The balance is disturbed by the unexpected arrival of the two sons of Hernando Lizalde, the wealthy landowner from whom Moreau leases the compound where he does his research. The two younger Lizaldes are hunting for indigenous rebels known to be operating in this part of Yucatan—but when they meet Carlota, the older of the two, Eduardo, takes a fancy to her. And Carlota is both vulnerable to the charms of this sophisticated outsider and concerned at what his presence might mean for her father’s research—because, as Eduardo makes it clear, he considers himself outright owner of the entire property, acting for his father. When Montgomery takes exception to Eduardo’s presence and his actions, the fuse is lit on a powder keg.

Moreno-Garcia does a marvelous job of conjuring up the atmosphere of Wells’ original and of transplanting it into the new setting. All the major characters are interestingly drawn, and the secrets behind Moreau’s research are both convincing and intriguing. The author is establishing herself as one of the most inventive new voices in SF, and her mining of materials from Mexican history and indigenous culture is a welcome addition to the genre’s palette of influences.

*   *   *

Edited by Michael A. Ventrella
Fantastic Books, $16.99
ISBN: 978-1-5154-4778-8

The title sums up the premise of this entertaining anthology: in each story, a group of time travelers from different eras meet—either on purpose or accidentally—and therein lies the tale. Ventrella has brought together eighteen authors, including Jody Lynn Nye, Allen Steele, Lawrence Watt-Evans, Gail Z. Martin, David Gerrold, Peter David, and Hildy Silverman, among others.

The stories take every imaginable angle on the premise, which—despite sounding like just the setup for a wacky joke—offers plenty of scope for writers who want to take a more serious tack. As one might expect, the time travelers cover almost the entire scope of our history. Ventrella notes, in a witty introduction to the collection, that some of the most popular characters in the submitted stories were Joan of Arc, Cleopatra, Shakespeare, Marilyn Monroe, Jane Austen, and Mark Twain. The finished volume includes none of those, but the roster of those included is distinguished enough.

Some of the stories bring together characters with similar fields of expertise—for example, Gail Martin’s “The Mystic Lamb” assembles Edgar Cayce, Maggie Fox, Harry Houdini, and Nicola Tesla to explore questions related to spiritualism and extrasensory perception. In “A Christmas Prelude,” Peter David goes against the grain to assemble fictional rather than historical characters—Don Quixote, Ali Baba, and Mephistopheles—to deliver a life-altering message to another fictional character who will be familiar to all. In “The Adventure of the Confounded Writer,” Arthur Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells, and Ed McBain are brought together to alter history for the better. And one writer—no spoilers here—gives a younger version of himself a chance to alter history after meeting two of his mentors and the version of himself who has lived through our history—a tour de force of time-travel twists and turns.

All in all, this is a highly entertaining volume based on a classic SF theme. It would have been interesting to see what editor Ventrella—himself a widely published author of short fiction and novels—might have contributed, given the rich possibilities of his premise. Bet it would have been good! He deserves kudos for this thoroughly readable collection. Recommended.

Copyright © 2023 Peter Heck

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