Here in the final section of our Uncharted Constellations anthology, we discover an insistent unease, and sometimes downright cynicism, about the mission ‘to boldly go’ into the universe beyond. The psychology and politics of space colonisation are teased out in these fictive pieces. The arrogance. The price paid. The risks when technology, or humans, break down. With wit, weirdness and some goosebumps, our writers plunge deep into space - where no-one hears you scream. Or DO they?
Here in the Space Cat module, long stretches of time confined to quarters are not unknown. Between work rosters, we’re filling any downtime with books, boogying and binge watching. 2002 Firefly's rollicking western-meets-space-opera vibe reminded me of a book review I've been hoarding. 'The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet' is an exuberant space adventure in which the journey and the crew really ARE the point of the tale. It strongly reminded me of the ensemble casts of TV shows like ‘Firefly’ or ‘The Expanse’ with a dash of ‘Star Wars’ movie wackiness thrown in. So a fun, feel-good read for the apocalypse which will still leave you thinking.
SEMIOSIS is an extraordinary First Contact novel where humans are the alien invaders. It isn’t the first to feature intelligent plant life but this is no 'Day of the Triffids'. Burke's talking plants will rewire your synapses. Unpredictable, urgent, occasionally bloody, the story is page-turning yet its characters and themes embed themselves deeply. Like snow-vine thorns.
‘The Bookman’ by Lavie Tidhar, is quite simply, tremendous fun. It’s a rollicking steampunk adventure that mashes together fantasy, sci-fi and Gothic with a smattering of ancient mythology. Only here can you find characters called Orphan and Gilgamesh jostling for space alongside Isabella Beeton, Karl Mark and Tom Thumb. And then there's the mysterious Bookman, a terrorist who favours exploding books. Yes, the book is mightier than the sword.
Robin Trigg’s chilly crime novel, NIGHT SHIFT, borrows its name from Antarctica’s six months season of darkness. ‘The cold hit me like a hammer. But never had I taken such an unpolluted breath.’ More intense than the icy embrace of this wilderness are the claustrophobia and close-quarters social dynamics facing the crew of Australis mining base. Newly appointed Security Chief, Anders Nordvelt, makes up the magic number of 13 hands. What could possibly go wrong?
Strap in tight and bite down on that Geode leaf. James Worrad’s space-opera, THE SCALPEL, delivers one helluva mind-bending trip through the galaxies. Every chapter opens new concepts, any one of which could power a whole novel. If you’re thinking you're in a Star Wars bar-room brawl with more inventive swearing and carnivorous dogs called Jaqruzzils, let me tell you, things get a whole lot weirder.
Disturbing, engrossing, enormous fun. No wonder Tade Thompson’s 'Rosewater' won the Arthur C Clarke Sci-Fi award for 2019. I haven’t read such a compelling invasion story since HG Wells’ 'War of the Worlds' scared the bejasus out of us.
The Space Race would never have got off the ground without science-fiction. It took fables of the impossible to fire up the imagination of space pioneers.