Christopher Evans (ed)
Robert Holdstock (ed)
This 1987 collection of sci fi and fantasy shorts was produced to address a perceived gap in the availability of a mass market anthology collection at the time. A hark back to the myriad of books of shorts that covered book shelves of the 1970s. It went on to spawn two sequels over the next two years. This first one boasting a line up entirely consisting of UK based - not necessarily British - authors proved to be an enjoyable if slightly inconsistent read.
The standout story here is Robert Holdstock's 'Scarrowfell'. Having just emerged from his 'Mythago Wood' I was enthused to read more and it certainly delivered with another piece of pagan Celtic fantasy that felt both uncontrived and remarkably fresh.
I'm a huge Michael Moorcock fan so the biggest disappointment here is undoubtedly his 'The Frozen Cardinal' which I thought was just daft although the treatment of women in many of the tales was an equally disappointing experience with both Tanith Lee's 'Crying in the Rain' and Christopher Evans' 'The Facts of Life' reducing them to mere property and Lisa Tuttle's 'The Wound' to that of a mutation.
Ian Watson's 'The Emir's Clock' is an interesting piece with a dumb ending and R.M. Lanning's 'Sanctity' was an interesting set up to an ending that reminded me of Monty Python joke and David Langford's ' In a Land of Sand and Ruin and Gold' owed a real debt to Moorcock's 'Dancers at the End of Time' series.
Graham Charnock's 'Fulwood's Web' was an entertainingly old fashioned bit of 'man shouldn't meddle' fun. David Garnett's 'Moonlighter' gave a tweak to the hoary old parallel dimension trope whilst M. John Harrison's 'Small Heirloom's' was intriguing but needed far more room than it had here. Gary Kilworth's 'Triptych' was one interesting idea sandwiched between two lesser ones but Keith Roberts' 'Piper's Wait' was very much the redemption of the book's latter half.
As I said an inconsistent read redeemed entirely by Holdstock's tale but not without a smattering of other interests strewn across it's pages.
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