‘Irregularity’ is the latest anthology from Jurassic London, a not-for-profit publishing house that splits sales proceeds between authors and charity partners. In this case, the partner is the National Maritime Museum in London and it was published to coincide with two Greenwich exhibitions exploring the quest to measure longitude and a show featuring steampunk at the Royal Observatory. To tie in with these exhibitions, the anthology has a theme of discovery and invention, particularly in the Age of Reason.
There are 14 stories in the collection and although they cover diverse topics, the diary format is quite heavily used. This does capture the time quite nicely, with letters and journals being some of the most common historical sources from that period and it allows a very personal approach to the events depicted. Having said that, I’d have enjoyed a bit more variety in style. I’ve never been a big fan of diary stories because they tend to feel a bit disjointed.
Many familiar historic figures crop up in these stories, but the authors have put them into alternative situations that make you look at them in a different light. I enjoyed this mix, taking a few real world people and events and twisting them into something new and often quite dark.
I’ll not go into details all of the stories here, but I’ll mention a few of my favourites.
I particularly enjoyed M. Suddain’s ‘The Darkness’, which had an alternative interpretation of the Great Fire of London involving a great nothingness that was sweeping across the city. The titular darkness seemed to be unstoppable and swallowed houses, people and anything else that was in its way. The scientific approaches to controlling it were very believable and it gave a great sense of where science and discovery was at that time.
Simon Guerrier’s tale of automated dinosaurs wreaking havoc in London in ‘An Experiment In The Formulae Of Thought’ was great fun. Ada Lovelace featured as the inventor who brought these creatures to life and, for once, I thought that the diary format was perfect. It was all told by a journalist who had been invited to the unveiling of the creatures and who kept us up to date as events unfolded. He was a good narrator, with a touch of both the professional observer as well as having a personal interest in events which really shone through.
‘The Assassination Of Isaac Newton By The Coward Robert Boyle’ by Adam Roberts was one of the lighter tales in the book, with many of them delving into the dark side of experimentation and discovery. In this one, we see Robert Boyle trying to kill Isaac Newton to maintain his scientific world view and prevent Newton’s outrageous discoveries from forever altering the course of the future. With a dash of time travel and alternate history, it was good fun and one of the few that had me chuckling.
All in all ‘Irregularity’ is a good anthology. The stories feel like they belong together, which makes it much more satisfying than collections featuring broader ranges of topics. There are plenty of points to make you think but with a good dose of the fantastic that often takes you to dark places. I’m not a great reader of short stories but because these fitted so well together I enjoyed this much more than most anthologies and I look forward to reading more of Jurassic London’s themed collections.
(pub: Jurassic London. 312 page paperback. Price £ 9.99 (UK), $11.99 (US). ISBN: 978-0-9928172-1-3)
check out website: www.jurassic-london.com/