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The Sky Inside

THE SKY INSIDE by Sean Williams

Drugstore Indian Press p/b Euro 14.00

Reviewed by Nigel Robert Wilson

Sean Williams is a very able writer of science fiction who explores the concepts he creates. There is no question as to his competence, as the New York Times happily declares. Also, Williams has written part of the Star Wars genre. He is convinced the future contains both chaos and challenges because it is not life as we know it, Jim.

This collection of seven novellas is an illustration of a very comfortable writing style, a competent ability to arrange plot lines and a capacity for precise characterisation. Put simply, these are rich tales of alternative cultures set in distant and parallel human cultures. There are no aliens, as humans are weird enough with technologies that can change reality.

By far, the best tale among the seven is `The Winter of the Soul’. This is an outstanding, instructive story in which Williams expresses his own thoughts through the principal character, Ania, the first human woman to land on the planet Esperanz, who takes up a relationship with the relatively lowly Taro, a post-graduate researcher. It is implied that such pioneers could only travel great distances by storing their bodies and installing their consciousness within a mechanoid form. She declares, `we have not conquered space at all: we have simply bypassed it to reach the stars’. If anything, this tale is a debate about creation and the death of hope.

Two of the stories are indulgences by Williams into his love of Structures. `Inevitable’ is a pure and simple space opera that generates its own complexities and concludes with a dilemma. It is more fun than anything else. Whereas `Glimpse of the Marvellous Structure (& the Threat It Entails)’ is a lot darker, illustrating the complexities of the mines of the plant Gevira that contain time loops and contradictory realities. It can be an uncomfortable read in places. Why on earth would creation fabricate such things? But then, it isn’t on Earth, is it?

Williams has a fondness for his story `Centotaxis’ which is included in this selection. Imre Bergamasc is the religious leader of The First Church of the Return that seeks to rediscover Old Earth. Here, he confronts an old man called Jasper, who might actually be God. The tale is both a whimsy and a tragi-comedy. Sadly, it does not make the cut, but others will think differently.

The other three stories revolve around something called a d-mat. This is a piece of kit central to the operation of immediate relocation transfer that allows the human being to be transmitted from place to place. `Murdering Miss Debbo’ illustrates two Peace-Keepers investigating a sudden death who discover that a d-mat has been used to switch human identities between identical twins. `Face Value’ explores the effects the invention of the d-mat had on wider society. Put quite simply, the technology allows just about anything to be recreated for free forever: pure limitless consumption. Then, someone invents the means to frustrate such convenience. `All the Living Places’ is about how the d-mat permits humanity to escape Earth. This is the tale of a generation that experiences a huge transformation in reality. Our hero searches for his pioneer girlfriend, who is busy opening up the cosmos. The tale is about fruitless pursuit and total loss.

Williams is a very creative writer. He works his themes hard and maximises the potential of each story. The reader has to put themselves in the hands of this master craftsman to get the fullest result.                                                                                                                

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