Decade 1: The Best Of Albedo One Paperback edited by John Kenny (book review).

September 19, 2016 | By | Reply More

What a mixed bag of goodies ‘Albedo One’ served up in its first decade! This little Irish magazine is rather like the Canadian ‘On Spec’ in that it doesn’t pay professional rates but still gets professional quality stories. Mind you, some of them are definitely weird. I’ll do those first and then get on to my favourites. There is some overlap between the two categories.

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‘Decline’, for example, by John Hanamy, is an everyday story of a businessman’s son. His dad owns the business and like all good family should he takes up a position in the company with an office and a secretary. He is dutifully served breakfast, coffee and all his other meals throughout the day. Only trouble is, he’s dead. He died of cancer aged twenty. To make it even weirder, he’s the narrator! It was an entertaining piece of black comedy.

Almost as odd was Dermot Ryan’s offering ‘Isolating An Element’. Loosely based on a song by The Police, ’Don’t Stand So Close to Me’, it’s about a male music teacher who is mad with lust for one of his sixteen year-old girl pupils. He lives with his ageing mother. In his lonely agony, he cries at night and his tears turn to seeds. He plants the seeds in a pot on the windowsill and after that things get really strange. As with every story, here it is beautifully written but I have to say I don’t think Mister Sting ever envisaged such an outcome for his frustrated teacher.

‘Antique Flesh’ by Gill Alderman is weird in a more traditional way. It’s about a Lalla Dyctinna, weaver of magical tapestries and her neighbour, Serdab V. Leishman, philosopher, artist, antiquarian and aesthete who is obsessed with her. This had something of the lyrical quality of Clark Ashton Smith. I must admit I almost fell asleep reading it but I was tired.

‘Anatomy Of A Resistentialist Induced Matricide’ is also strange and fits into the other category in the book, stories that aren‘t really SF or fantasy. The sad decline of short story markets outside the fantasy field means that authors with a mainstream story to sell put a teeny-weeny bit of fantasy in or none and sell it to one of our magazines. This only works if it’s ‘literary’, of course. You can’t do it with pulp fiction. Here author Sean MacRoibin tells the story of Ernest Bondarchuk, a very unusual young man who killed his mother. I can’t see how this fitted into either the fantasy or SF categories but it had the madcap humour of the late Spike Milligan and that’s okay with me.

‘On A Planet Similar To Ours The Virgin Mary Says No’ by John W. Sexton is about a woman called Mary having a car crash while pregnant. I couldn’t see the point of it but at least at one and a half pages long it won’t take up much of your time.

‘Cinderella The Dirt Queen’ by H. Turnip Smith was an excellent story about a poor girl in west Texas but, although there were elements that seemed unreal, I think they were the main character’s delusions or dreams, not actual fantasy.

‘The Olivia Reunion Party’ by Phillip Raines and Harvey Welles is about a gaggle of sisters getting together to celebrate the life of another one who was a television star. Quite good but not a breath of fantasy could I discover in any particle of it. They’re all fine tales, I just question their fantastic credits.

Saving the best until last, there are two great stories in the collection. I really enjoyed ‘Charly’s Ark’ by Peadar O’Guilin. It’s set on a post-apocalyptic Earth where the fat descendants of mankind stuff themselves all day, the grub provided by automated food dispensers. The pecking order is decided by obesity so Ella, merely plump, is delighted that skinny Charly exists as everyone bullies him. If Charly ever went, she’d be the one picked on. Charly survives because he’s smart. This is a stark look at human meanness based on an excellent SF premise and might have been written by young Stephen King.

My absolute favourite yarn was ‘Crowned By Lightning’ by Tais Teng. This is based on the premise that the Tower of Babel exists, always has and is based in Iraq, currently ruled by Saddam Hussein. Edmund Hillary wants to climb it and, in the opening scene, recruits his old friend, Sherpa Tenzing, to help. They proceed to organise an expedition, no easy task under a corrupt regime and not cheap. They stay briefly at the Babel Hilton, ‘playground of the idle rich and the tuxedoed ferrets who stalk them.’ Sherpa Tenzing gets all the best lines, full of eastern wisdom and dry humour, but it’s a sympathetic portrait of Hillary. This is the crown jewel in an interesting collection.

Eamonn Murphy

September 2016

(pub: Aeon Press. 194 page paperback. Price: £ 9.95 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-99346-820-9

check out website: www.albedo1.com/aeon-press/

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Category: Books, Fantasy, Scifi

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About the Author ()

Eamonn Murphy is a science fiction, fantasy, horror and graphic novel reviewer who lives in the south west of England. He's written a few stories too.

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