Triangulation: End of Time

Edited by: Pete Butler
Parsex Ink
RRP: 9.50, US $12.00
ISBN: 978 0 6151 5280 6
Available 02 August 2007

What images would be conjured up if you were to contemplate the end of time? Will it end with a resounding bang or a piteous whimper? Well that's the challenge that was laid down by PARSEC for their annual anthology of speculative fiction...

There is always an innate problem in reviewing anthologies, given the amount of stories on offer (in this case twenty). Some will enthral you whilst others will leave you cold. This is in part down to personal choice - after all the stories range from grand universe spanning ideas to very personal stories - and partly it is down to the individual skills of the authors as story tellers.

The anthology has some very nice facets. Each story is followed with a little bit of blurb about each of the authors, and for the majority this is accompanied by a photo. So if you really hate the story you not only know where to find the author but also what they look like. Stalkers of the world will have a field day.

The book (sick of the word anthology now) opens with Ian Creasey's A Job for Life with a look at the problems which omnipotent beings may have in finding gainful employment. It's a well written piece and a good strong story to open with.

America is Coming! By Dario Ciriello is one of my favourites if only for the image of a flying America bulldozing everything else in the world. Little is known if Ciriello means to draw a parallel with America's foreign policy, but it's a nice story that can be read either way.

Morris and the Machine and Tim Pratt contemplates another sort of ending - the ending of a relationship. His time travelling story is as well written as you would expect from Pratt, even though the trips back in time reminded me of The Time Travellers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I thought the interaction between Morris and his younger wife worked too well, but hey it's a short story, so we can forgive this.

That Ain't a Mosey by Jeff Parish imagines a world reduced to zombies from a single Indian's arrow. I'm sure that fans of Zombie stories will enjoy this, but personally it felt like a by the numbers affair, which neither added anything to the genre nor granted enough surprises not to finish it with an uninterested shrug. That's not to say that the story is not well constructed, Parish writes well, but the story could have done with a punchier ending.

Late by Idan Cohen is a very short story which looks at the theme that not even the end of the world will stop lovers from getting married. It's a short, sharp and amusing story.

Near Absolute Zero by Jetse de Vries pulls another, old as the hills, idea out of the hat and does little with it. Rather than build up to the revelation that we are all just part of a larger computer program, de Vries wastes too much time in salacious, and ultimately unnecessary sex scenes, leaving the whole thing unsatisfactory.

The Bridge by Michael Stone, at barely a page and a half long, attempts to portray a looped narrative, a difficult thing to achieve. Achieve it he does, but I felt that there was something missing, a level of pathos, at the heart of the story which did not allow the reader to either sympathise or empathise with his character.

Surface Tension by Kurt Kirchmeier and the anthology kicks back into highly conceptual and compelling story writing, imagining a level of reality outside of our own, whose beings depend on the creation of universes to sustain their own existence. Full of memorable imagery Kirchmeier is obviously a writer to watch out for.

Conversation in an English Pub by D.K. Latta is more than a little nihilistic in its outlook, as time travellers nip back to kill artists, allowing the future to have something to produce. Odd concept really, although the story is competently written, it's a large concept to ask your audience to swallow - that at some point in time human imagination will come to a dead end. After all we've not run out of stories in the last two thousand years.

Time's Arrow is not your Enemy by Ashley Arnold is another time travel story, though this time with a warning to the possible consequences of this technology. Well written with a nice injection of wit to carry the story forward.

When we have Time by Matthew Johnson is one of the gems of the anthology. Most of the stories have some form of reveal at the end to either surprise or illuminate. Most do it well, but Johnson pulls the reveal off perfectly with his story of having to give your child back because you have run out of money.

Hurricane Watch by Rebecca W. Day imagines the world drowning under the final storm. This is less of a sci-fi environmental story as it is a fantasy. Well written and packed with earth mother iconography it is an interesting vision of death and rebirth.

This is the way the world Ends by Trent Walters imagines what mankind will become if you could wake up in the year 4010. It's another nice piece that does not feel that the end of humanity, as we know it, has to be a bad thing.

Defender by Scott Almes treads the same road as Harlan Ellison in his imagining of a world destroyed by war and the lives of the few survivors. Once more Defender is a well written story with a nice twist at the end.

Ice Age by Jessica E. Kaiser looks at the hunters becoming the hunted. Personally I thought that the story didn't hang together as well as some of the other stories, though the ecological theme will be popular with many readers.

The Shopping Cart People by Terry Hayman is just plain weird. In his vision the world comes to an end in a small town after an invasion of murderous shopping cart people, the disadvantaged and dispossessed bite back in a very real way. I presume that this story will find more resonance with Americans as I'm not aware of a great many British tramps using shopping carts as a opposed to bags. Still, it was a good concept with a visceral level of fear and paranoia for you to enjoy.

Final Episode by Katherine Shaw is, on the surface, a straight forward time travel story, with the nice twist that the traveller has come from the past and not the future. This allows Shaw to put in a lot of in-jokes for the audience, it also allows her to finish the story in an unexpected but satisfying way.

In the Belly of the Desert by Jared Axelrod, at two pages long, is more of a snapshot of a man contemplating the end of the world.

Think Kindly of our Fossils by Sue Burke extols resignation in the face of extinction as one species dies so another will rise. It is another short piece which also is more of a snapshot than a full story.

Last, but by no means least, we have Eshu and the Anthropic Principle by Geoffrey Thorne, who imagines the lives of beings who are capable of creating universes. This was another of my favourites in the book as Thorne melds high concept with wit to create a memorable story.

So there we have it. At best some of the stories will stay with you. Though there is a number of old concepts rehashed and some stories are at best competent, overall it's a nicely satisfying read.

Charles Packer

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