Rehabbing an injury means no ‘simulated fights to the death’ (or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to give it its real name) for me. But, that means more reading and Mash Up somehow happened to be neatly tucked in amongst my son’s toys, waiting to be read.
Daryl Gregory’s Begone is a mash up of ideas and themes that strikes at any family man’s heart. To be replaced, not just divorced, but ousted and superseded by another person playing the role of you in your own family is an awful thought. Tinged with echoes of the TV show Bewitched and painted with the emotional turmoil of a man desperate to reclaim his home, his place in the world and most importantly his daughter, this short story is equally amusing yet provoking. A wonderful blend of the fantastical and the very real.
The Red Menace by Lavie Tidhar is a compact story that reimagines history through the eyes of a man caught up in events of huge importance. Taking its emphasis from Marx and Engle’s The Communist Manifesto, Tidhar’s story is one that traces the line between the bizarre and the wonderful.
The threat of communism means something quite different in this alternative timeline. Teleportation gateways and alien technologies abound, transforming the political landscape of the era. War ensues but one in which Nazi and Allied forces are combined against the Soviet power. Yet, amongst all this it is the personal journey of one man, his choices and losses which says so much, imbuing the story with real heart.
“It was a dark and stormy night” – a line I’ve heard many a time and seen appropriated for many a story. I didn’t know it came from Paul Clifford written by Edward Bulwer-Lytton. Here, it’s used by Nancy Kress to kick off a tale entitled Writer’s Block, one which flows from the mundane to the murderous and into the realm of the magical in short fashion. A wealthy would-be writer is unable to find his muse. His wife just wants his money and has few qualms about getting it. Enter, stage left, a unique character who bestows a strange gift to the flailing author. A wonderful piece of writing Writer’s Block is thoroughly enjoyable.
Taking the opening line of the bible, Tad Williams’ Every Fuzzy Beast of the Earth, Every Pink Fowl of the Air, is excellent. This is my first time reading Tad Williams but the story reminded me of Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams. Ludicrous, fun, humorous yet never cliche or silly. A great little idea brilliantly executed.
There’s definitely a lot more great stories in this anthology. Using the ‘first line’ prompt has clearly produced some inventive work, it’s such a fecund idea. Reading pile and time allowed, I’ll keep this collection handy for a quick fix of awesome.
Published by Titan Books