Science fiction and fantasy
edited by Ian Whates
In The Age Of Entitlement Adam Nevill introduces a sensitive narrator living in a place of death and old grief, menaced by the sea. His friend Toby is selfish, and their unequal relationship fosters bitterness in a brilliantly atmospheric tale.
The stories aren't all water-based. Andrew Hook's Things That Are Here Now, Things That Were There Then deals with madness as Constance, a photographer, dreams of a crow. The story is told from her boyfriend's point of view, who may not be all he seems in this curious contemporary story.
Finn Clarke's Loose Connections is one of a few stories to interpret the title as something to do with electricity rather than water. It's set in a near future world where people use Dark Current Therapy to lose their evil impulses so that crime falls. Things go wrong when the main character, Jess, forgets her regular appointment at the clinic. This is a well-paced, exciting and very human dystopian story with a nice twist and an original concept.
Rebecca J. Payne's A Change In The Weather features the shipping forecast. As Cassie listens to it and clutches her radio, waiting for something, her normal life seems more and more detached and grey. This is another story that works well thanks to an atmosphere so thick you can cut it. However, I wish just for once writers would lay off naming characters who have premonitions "Cassandra".
Sophia McDougall's Bells Ringing Under The Sea is a story about insanity and how it affects a family. Told from the point of view of the man, who talks about how his ex-wife Mel saw things, and how she loved to go free diving for long periods in the open ocean. It's a story of an angry, damaged guy grappling with his wife's madness, and that human element brings the supernatural horror that's hinted at into full relief. The ending is creepily perfect.
Neil Williamson's Lost Sheep is a far future space adventure in which Danny Gibbs is reprimanded by his sentient ship, which is called Hope To Die. Danny comes from a rich family who specialise in exploiting newly-discovered cultures, and he is spoilt and irresponsible, continually running from the law and his family. In deep space they come across and old generation ship full of people who have had to adapt to survive. It's an engaging, inventive, and satisfying space story.
Aliette De Bodard's The Bleeding Man is the story of a young woman who is told off for spying on a bleeding captive in this harsh fantasy. Her mother and uncle are blood-empaths, which means they have certain powers that mean they specialise in torture and interrogation. The young woman isn't allowed to follow in their footsteps and train in their trade. It's a touching story, as well as a weird one, and it's not quite resolved.
Short stories have a point where they need to cut off in order to keep them at their most impactful, and over-explaining risks diluting their point. However, there's no danger of over-explanation in Dark Currents; the opposite can be true. Some stories that I haven't commented on yet in this anthology tended to leave me confused because there wasn't quite enough to go on to make sense of them. This is the kind of collection that might need to be read more than once to get the most out of it. Yet it does contain inventive and outstanding speculative fiction shorts that are well worth dwelling on.
25th October 2016
If you like this, try:Magic: An Anthology Of The Esoteric And Arcane by Jonathan Oliver
In these short stories magic is sometimes for show, but often dangerous and unpredictable. This anthology features stories by authors such as Will Hill, Allison Littlewood, Lou Morgan, Dan Abnett, and Storm Constantine.
Empire in Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky
A small group of agents take on the might of the encroaching Wasp Empire in this unconventional fantasy.
Servant of the Underworld by Aliette de Bodard
An Aztec high priest tries to solve a missing person mystery in the first book of the Obsidian and Blood trilogy.
Review © Ros Jackson
Source: own copy