(I haven’t stopped reading, nor writing these notes: I just haven’t got round to posting them, for various reasons).

I actually started reading this back in October last year, but, it being a collection of short stories, I took it slowly, over months. Since I finished it this year, it belongs in my 2006 Book Notes.

Before I get much further I should declare an interest: one of the editors, Andrew, is an old university friend of mine.

So it might come as no surprise that I am more impressed by the very existence of this boook than by its content. Which is not to dismiss or belittle the content. There are some very good stories here, by some top authors and fine newcomers. But the overall sense of it is less than overwhelming.

Perhaps the most surprising letdown is a sin of omission: where is Scotland’s most famous SF author; indeed, probably its most famous living author? No doubt the good Mr Banks has other things to do — I doubt that he writes short stories at all, these days — but you’d think he could have done an introduction or something.

The introduction in fact is by David Pringle, the former editor of Interzone: I had no idea that he was even Scottish. But there you go: we get everywhere.

I’m not going to go through all the stories, just hit a few high and low points.

In a way the most disappointing story is Hal Duncan‘s ‘The Last Shift’. Not because it’s badly written or anything. Rather, because it’s not SF, fantasy, or speculative in any way. It’s a sadly-commonplace tale of the last day of a factory whose company is “outsourcing” or “offshoring” all the work. The fact that the characters all have wings and horns like the demons of our world’s mythology (and that the location doesn’t exist in our world) neither adds anything to it nor detracts from it in anyway: those factors are just irrelevant.

Which is a shame. I’m a keen reader of Hal’s blog, and look forward to reading his first novel, Vellum (I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve so far been put off buying it by the price: it’s a full-price hardback at £17:99, and that just seems a bit too much for an essentially unkown author).

The high points for me are probably ‘Sophie and the Sacred Fluids’ by Andrew C Ferguson (another disclaimer: I also had a passing acquaintance with this Andrew); ‘Deus ex Homine’, by Hannu Rajaniemi; and ‘Snowball’s Chance’, by Charles Stross.

In conclusion, I’m very glad it exists, and I’m glad I read it; but I hope the next volume, if it happens, is better.

[tags]books, book notes 2006, nova scotia, sf, scotland, science fiction, scottish fiction, scottish literature, scottish sf, scottish writing[/tags]