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- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
A stimulating collection of sci-fi and dark fantasy shorts that proved entertaining reading over the Halloween weekend. The majority of tales earn a solid four stars, but there were a couple five star holdouts for me. I suppose different readers will have different favorites; such is the case with any anthology of tales. The one that most rocked my world was James McCormick’s, Homecoming. It’s the kind of story I would love to have written. The story is set in a near-future world where privileged individuals are among the first to have mindchips.
Our hero is just such a character. He’s a man of the people who is determined to use his undue entitlements for the greater good of humanity. He’s a standout among his kind, however. The father, who he hates, lives with the rest of the entitled elite in a floating city called Eden, viewing the humans below like the ants they are to them. Edenites have access to all the most advanced technologies and, as a consequence, live in a world that is heaven relative to the hell below them. And his father, the most self-serving bastard of them all, is also the most powerful of the Edenites. So when the old man invites his estranged and alienated son, whom he hasn’t spoken to in over twenty years, up to the cloud city in the sky, his son is sure dear old dad is up to something nefarious, as that’s all he’s ever up to.
Our hero is not disappointed on his arrival. Within hours he is fighting for his life. His father is missing the one thing a man who has everything money can buy still can’t possess, youth. But that’s a problem easily solved for the old man. It just comes down to transferring his consciousness into his son’s, and electronically possessing him. The boy will lose claim to his own body and live out the rest of his life banished to the deepest darkest recesses of the old man’s unconscious, assuming he isn’t blasted into oblivion altogether.
The son, expecting treachery, doesn’t exactly come ill-prepared to take on the old man. But the old man is a master plotter and schemer extraordinaire who has spent a lifetime amassing a fortune at other’s expenses by never once letting up on his Machiavellian plays. The son, by contrast, has just had a day to prepare his defenses. Will his mindchip be enough to protect him? Or did his father steal that technology too as he has stolen so many others over the years?
How exactly the rest of their drama plays out is the fun that comes of reading the story. I will tell you this much, it was all just too terrifyingly realistic. It feels more like a crystal ball look on the future, a drama of inevitability, rather than a writer’s wild imaginings. And it’s the kind of drama that would easily have sustained me for an entire novel. Hopefully the author will try some longer-form fiction with just some of the ideas floated in this story.
There are other crowd pleasers, of course, quite a few in fact. One more story I may never shake is called Halo, by Ben Pienaar. Halo refers to a mind implant device sold for behavior modification. It goes through a series of rigorous trials on monkeys before being tested on humans. But is eventually okayed for public use. For less than the price of a car, people can have them implanted in hospitals anywhere in the first world to cure depression, kick bad habits. The behavior modifications in versions 2.0 and 3.0 ultimately get extended to promote exercise, increase attraction to healthy foods and aversion of unhealthy ones. Those on Halo also feel a keen interest to learn and be productive. It’s easy to see how a device like this could spread in popularity. After all, we have any number of drug regimens and other protocols for these things in place now, but none of them are a fraction as effective.
Over time, Halo doesn’t just become a desirable addition to one’s life, it becomes mandatory. Crime is reduced to next to zero, and… well the ripple effects throughout society are more tremendous than you might think. All is well with the world finally, right? Lol. Not exactly. As they say, the path to hell is paved with good intentions. Halo opens us to a riveting, all-too compelling and believable near future dystopian world that puts many to shame.
Honestly, it’s been a long time since I’ve read sci-fi anthologies and shorts, preferring full length novels. But this collection reminded me of the importance of expanding my reading palate. So many wonderful ideas enclosed in these pages could easily be expanded into novels. More to the point, you get treated to more earth shattering views of the future in less time and for less effort than you could possible get with novels.