The Smallest Of Things by Ian Whates (book review).

I’d been aware of Ian Whates as a Science Fiction author for some years, but never got around to reading any of his work. To be honest, while I’ve always been an SF fan, I have tended to favour the supernatural over science for my reading material in recent years.

More recently, I’ve become aware of Ian Whates as a publisher of some repute under the name, Newcon Press. I’ve since met him at a couple of conventions and picked up a few books from him for review purposes, even some Science Fiction.

It was while chatting to him at Novacon last year about a couple of books I was interested in reviewing that it occurred to me that I should finally get around to reading some of his own work. I was aware that he’d had a novella recently published by PS Publishing, but he’d already sold out of copies on the day so I arranged for him to send me a .pdf copy, which this review is based upon. Having previously pigeon-holed Whates as a Science Fiction author, it was interesting to discover that this novella was more along the lines of an urban fantasy of sorts, with occult detective leanings, albeit with a strong science fictional basis.

The main science-fictional basis for the story is the fact that it’s involves the multiverse, a trope that will be very familiar to fans of the CW adaptations of DC Comics characters for TV. In this case it’s specifically set in various different versions of London. Chris is able to sense places where the barriers between the realities are weak, which allow him to pass through.

He receives a panicked text from an old friend, Claire. Her boyfriend has been murdered and the perpetrators are now after her. Claire is aware that Chris works as a sort of interdimensional PI-come-fixer and turns to him for help, because the perpetrators looked…wrong. They do prove to be, as one would expect, ‘not from around here’. They pursue Chris and Claire through several variant Londons until they finally come face to face with the mysterious organisation known as the Faramund.

It became clear to me very quickly that this is something of a set-up story for the protagonist, Chris. This is not to say it isn’t a satisfying tale in its own right, but I was rather left wanting more and I expect and hope that Whates has a lot more to tell us. We establish here who Chris is and what he does, We’re provided with a classic dodgy organisation designed to fill the role of an arch-enemy and we briefly meet a few of Chris’ friends and contacts, while leaving a fair bit of history to be filled in as the series progresses.

I wasn’t initially clear on whether or not this was actually the first appearance of Chris (who has never been given a surname), so I decided to simply track Ian Whates down on Facebook and ask him. I was informed that the character first appeared in a story that was published in a webzine as long ago as 2007 and that there’s another story in the December 2018 edition of Bruce Bethke’s ‘Stupefying Stories’. PS Publishing have apparently commissioned a further novella, so there’s certainly more to look forward to. I’m rather hoping that the earlier stories (Whates didn’t tell me how many there actually are) might be collected one day.

I suspect it’s apparent by this point that I liked the book quite a lot. It’s so well-written that I didn’t actually notice the writing style, I simply fell into the story. PS Publishing are well above average when it comes to the quality of their editing, so I wasn’t pulled out of the story by bad grammar or typos, which is a sad factor in so many books these days. I was interested enough that I bought a Kindle edition of Stupefying Stories # 22, and am in the process of reviewing that, too.

Dave Brzeski

January 2019

(pub: PS Publications, 2018. 88 page hardback. Price: £15.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-786363-62-6. A signed and numbered edition limited to 100 copies is also available at £25.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-786363-63-3)

check out website: https://www.pspublishing.co.uk/the-smallest-of-things-hardcover-by-ian-whates-4678-p.asp

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