Andromeda’s Children edited by Theresa Derwin (ebook review).

March 17, 2016 | By | Reply More
  • Fringeworks Press is usually known for its contemporary horror and steampunk works. This anthology of stories comes as a pleasant addition to their range being a genuine attempt at Science Fiction. The editor of ‘Andromeda’s Children’ is Theresa Derwin, who is perhaps best known for her crusade on women in Science Fiction as authors, characters, editors and related fields. It is therefore unsurprising that these stories focus on strong female characters. There are thirteen stories in this book which range from thoughtful to comedic.


The book itself is attractive due to an uncredited Jim Burns painting on the cover. This is rather impressive for a small and independent press. Given the current abstract philosophy for cover illustration, I laud Fringework’s choice in this. Bring back the SF artwork on covers I say!

The stories themselves are highly variable. Comedic SF is notoriously hard to write. Even Douglas Adams noted that funny jokes and an actual story are hard to combine. As such David Perlmutter’s ‘Cut And Run’ really didn’t work for me, although lovers of satire may find more in it. It does come across convincingly as a story told by a hyperactive young teenager but crazily stereotypical aliens planning to cut the hair of Earth’s women didn’t hit the right notes for me. Also, while David Cavalchini’s ‘Electric You’ is a perfectly workable piece of space opera and has all the correct ingredients it apes ‘Star Wars’ (Garth Grader, anyone?) which seems to me to be rather hollow.

Being Ready’ by Lynn M. Chochrane features humans being recruited to specific manual labour jobs to build the muscle memory to operate a starship without their prior knowledge. This is a good basic idea but it felt underdeveloped in the word count for the story and as such I did not find it very satisfying.

Margaret Karmazin gives us ‘Brodsky’, in which the title character is the pet cat of a scientist and his wife. The resulting sixties style paranoia story has a whiff of ‘Invasion Of The Body Snatchers’.

Matthew Sylvester has contributed ‘The Enlightened Solider’ which is a tale of religious fundamentalist soldiers with a twist in the tale. These stories all feel acceptable but not quite good and as such contribute the filler material.

Moving onto the better stories we have Therese Arkenberg’s ‘To The Altar’, which features two strong female characters facing separate but related morale issues. Could you betray your fanatic forces of war to save many lives even if it means sacrificing fewer lives or would you, as a leader of the other side, actually deploy atomic weapons to end a war quickly but killing many? This is a nice quandary to base a memorable story around.

Pauline E. Dungate has provided ‘Desert Storm’ which, being the first story in the book, kicks off the collection in a pleasingly gung-ho adventure fashion. It starts out almost in the tradition of military SF which this reviewer likes but resolves itself using humour which this reviewer doesn’t really get. Ah well.

Stewart Hotston has provided the intriguingly titled ‘Roses Are #FF0000’. This is a nice cyberpunk tale of a suspicious lover, a weak fool falling for a femme fatale and razor sharp programming. It has just enough of the genre’s just-after-tomorrow chic to pull it off.

A Quiet Run To Quintos’ by Caroline Cormack almost makes my best-of-the-bunch prize. It features a comfortably well-run ferry ship with competent practiced crew dealing with an extremely unusual biohazard outbreak. The story is well-written and generates a good air of tension but is slightly let down by the author’s choice of disease which is easily curable with our current common medical technology so it is hard to believe it would be a threat aboard a spaceship.

Quit’ by Jay Wilburn is a fun and convoluted time machine tale that gets the paradox level just about right. It also very effectively communicates the protagonist’s confusion as reality seems to bend around itself.

David Cavalchini has contributed ‘Shelved Desires’, which is a tale of a clever female solicitor visiting a secluded librarian to conclude his wife’s divorce proceedings. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the unfortunate librarian and the twist in the last paragraph made feel that the `strong’ woman was actually downright evil. This left a rather unsavoury taste in my mouth and may not have been the best story to close the anthology on.

So I come to the best stories in this collection. James S. Dorr has written ‘Golden Age’ which feels the most hard-SF of these stories. It deals with the possible consequences of effective and affordable replacement body parts. If you can replace parts of your body as they wear out you gain a sort of immortality but how long will the replacements last? Given the concept feels plausible, this story carries more verisimilitude than the others and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Overview’ by Sean Chatterton is the stand-out tale of this anthology. I actually thought it was the shortest story but the contents page belies this. The story just zipped along when I read it. It is the other time travel story in this book and is very slickly presented. It manages to cram a very large feeling story into the short form which recalls other greats of the format. It also features a central paradox that is pleasingly mindbending. I can’t actually describe it better for fear of ruining the surprise but I think the whole book might be worth getting for this and maybe ‘Golden Age’ alone.

Given that this is the first attempt at an SF anthology by this editor and this press, I commend them for the quality of the stories. In general, the writing in this book is of a surprisingly high quality. However, I do feel the need to mention that there are some problems with the actual production of the book itself. I spotted numerous, obvious and embarrassing spelling mistakes as well as typesetting issues with breaks mid-sentence, etc. I happen to know two of the authors and I understand that there has been some dissatisfaction with communication and the way they were treated. This unfortunately casts a shadow over the volume but not one which is dark enough to dim the brightness of the stories.

Experienced SF readers might find themselves making comparisons with other short story anthologies, some of which are very accomplished. These stories are fairly light and easily approached. As such, they are eminently suitable for the less experienced reader looking to explore SF as a genre as the stories are very varied. For the veteran SF reader, this book is probably best as the light palate cleaner between more weighty courses. Nonetheless, it is an encouraging book with a pleasantly upbeat aspect and so I am happy to recommend it to anyone looking for a refreshing interlude.

David Corby

March 2016

Andromeda’s Children edited by Theresa Derwin

(pub: Fringeworks, 2015. 220 page ebook. Price: £ 2.61. ISBN: 978-1-90957-307-9. NB It goes up to £ 5.99 (UK) end of April)

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Category: Books, Scifi

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