The second of Broderick and Boston's anthologies of stories from Science Fantasy, the venerable and long-gone British SF magazine from the 1950s-1960s, digs deeper into the second tier of writers associated with the magazine: this may make it a more representative sample of what the mag was all about, but it makes for a less satisfying read than the other two volumes. It's not too bad - you can't go too far wrong with Ballard and Swann present - but it's not quite up to the standards of The Daymakers or Perchance to Wake.
Damien Broderick - Introduction
Jonathan Burke - The Adjusters
Martin Jordan - Sheamus
John Brunner - City of the Tiger
Kenneth Bulmer - Castle of Vengeance
John Kippax - Destiny Incorporated
J.G. Ballard - The Watch Towers
Thomas Burnett Swann - The Sudden Wings
Philip E, High - Dead End
The best thing here, by a considerable margin, is the Swann, another oneric Classical fantasy with the usual gender-fluid erotic undertones that leave you thinking that "Polymorphous" is a character from Greek myth. The Ballard isn't anywhere near his best, but even second rate Ballard is pretty good and this gives you an idea of what he'd have written if he'd been inspired by those scary Czech cartoons about people being chased by buildings that Alexei Sayle used to talk about.
Most of the other stories, in widely varying ways, deal with reality not being what it seems - the classic Philip K, Dick storytelling engine, though none of these writers dive into it with the commitment or skill of PKD. They're all amiable enough as you read them, but not particularly memorable, and tend to emphasise a defining feature of Carnell's magazines, the story in which, no matter how radical the SF or fantasy situation, the protagonist is a Ruddy Good Bloke with a tweed jacket, a pipe and the social attitudes of 1950s middle-class English chaps. Of these, "The Adjusters" is probably the most engaging, as it moves at a good pace and doesn't outstay its welcome.
Finally, there's "Sheamus", which is terrible, but unforgettable, because it's like the War of the Worlds rewritten as a love story by a Flann O'Brien with absolutely no sense of humour whatsoever.
Broderick's introduction is, as in all these anthologies, historically informative and critically insightful. And, as with the others, the ebook formatting is disappointing, with no hyperlinks to the stories from the contents page.
If you enjoyed The Daymakers or Perchance To Wake, you'll probably get along just fine with this one too, but if you're approaching the series for the first time, start with one of the other volumes first.
- Paperback: 324 pages
- Publisher: Ramble House (28 April 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1605438286
- ISBN-13: 978-1605438283
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.1 x 22.9 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 553 g
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