The Martian Wave: 2017 edited by J Alan Erwine (book review).

November 20, 2017 | By | 1 Reply More

‘The Martian Wave’ is an annual anthology from Nomadic Delirium Press that focuses on exploration and colonisation, either in the Solar system or more far-flung planets. I found the contents page daunting until I realised that quite a few things on the list were short poems. Of poetry, I know nothing so I’ll focus on the stories, not in chronological order but arranged by their distance from Earth.

In the ‘The Hard Way Home’ by Mike Adamson, pilot Gill Markham of the New World Joint Space Venture Corporation has a problem. New information reveals that his heat shield is liable to fail on the way down through Earth’s atmosphere. There are no ships available to rescue him and his best option might be…the Black Pill. The crisis was well handled with plenty of technical detail and I liked the authors less gung-ho than Heinlein view of space travel run by corporations.

High marks for ‘Flying By Instinct’ by Lisa Timpf. The spaceship Frijesca is on the Mars-Earth run. Sammy Smith, not his real name, wangled a job on it via a poker game. As there are multiple alien species on the ship with Earthmen, I assume the setting is the far future. Sammy tries to win an ancient pendant in a poker game and when he can’t, just grabs it. Putting it on, he becomes the ship’s new Albatross, an interesting concept. The author uses similes that involve things you’ve never heard of that sound interesting: ‘tense as a Martian night-monkey with a panther in hot pursuit’ and news spread ‘like a Degnan wildfire’. I thoroughly enjoyed this. The poker game, like the similes, may have been inspired by ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ but the overall story made me think of ‘Lulungomeena‘, another yarn of shipboard gambling by Gordon R. Dickson. It appeared in an excellent anthology ‘Deep Space’ edited by Robert Silverberg and I was glad to be reminded of it.

‘The Sour Dust Of Mars’ by Angus Cervantes is one of the best yarns here but not the nicest. French is captain of the Mars colony ship and mayor of Mars. He’s also the last Earthman left alive but he’s not alone. The other colonists are tall, thin, genetically tweaked humans that he calls GTs. He despises them and spends most of his time drunk. Then a call comes that Earth is in trouble and only he can help. A great set-up and a good story with the sour thoughts of a stale, bitter drunk making a change from the usual clean-cut hero.

‘The Other Face Of Medusa’ by Stephen S. Power is a Barroom yarn in which life on Jupiter is discussed. ‘Lunch Gone Wrong’ by Eddie D. Moore is an amusing tale of dating on the Lunar Colony where a man meets a woman he once snubbed. She has moved on.

And so, to the stars. Andrew Muff wrote of mysterious disease on Planet 3253-J. It starts with ‘The Rash’ A doctor at this distant outpost is under pressure from the bosses, faithful employees of another mean corporation, to cure a disease that’s felling employees. Doctor John Gillespie is not a strong man and tends to turn to the bottle for succour under stress but his heart’s in the right place. The disease was interesting but I don’t want it. Muff evokes a strong atmosphere of menace with a bunch of rotten characters.

Old-fashioned colonisation in ‘Orcus Express – Derailed’ by Russell Hemmell. Marin and Leanne go to investigate the Orcus colony which has dropped out of communication. On investigation, they find a nice little town with a railroad. It’s a sort of a Ray Bradbury tribute with a twist.

The foregoing are the meat of the book but there are snacks, too. Some ‘stories’ were more like incidents, which you can do in short fiction. ‘Traditions’ by Melanie Rees had two heroic ladies and a brutish drunken captain on an alien planet. ‘Neptune’s Run’ by Matthew Spence started promisingly with a trade ship crew mysteriously dead all bar one but sort of fizzled out. ‘Cosmic Aspirations’ by Tristan Fernie takes the common man’s view of space exploration when it’s all got ordinary and nothing much has changed for him. A tad depressing but certainly a different opinion. ‘All The World’s A Drake Equation’ by Alan Ira Gordon isn’t much longer than the title but makes a point.

There’s a lot of poetry, too. Sadly, for me, it’s the modern stuff which doesn’t rhyme or scan and looks to my ancient eye like prose in rows of different lengths. But that’s just me and, although I don’t care for it myself, I applaud the good work of Nomadic Delirium Press in providing a venue for its practice. Ditto for short Science Fiction in the classic mode. ‘The Martian Wave 2017’ has three excellent stories, several interesting ones and a couple I wasn’t mad about. That’s about average for an anthology, mixed bags by their very nature.

Eamonn Murphy

November 2017

(pub: Nomadic Delirium Press. 130 page paperback. Price: $10.00 (US), £ 7.42 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-37073-320-0). Ebook: Price: $ 4.00 (US), £ 3.04 (UK).

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Category: Books, Scifi

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