This anthology is made up of nine exceptional stories which is a relief. Usually there are always one or more duff stories that blight a collection but, with this anthology, it’s the reverse. I wanted some of the stories to be longer, much longer, as they are filled with new ideas or different approaches.
I’m getting ahead of myself here as the cover art by Ian Stead is first rate and deserves a mention. Before you get to the main content hidden away in the copyright section is a little gem that I bet most readers will miss. When they say ‘all rights reserved’ they actually do mean it and the list of no-no’s includes encoding it onto your DNA as well as other oddities. It’s worth a read just to see how far David Gullen and Gary Couzens are willing to go to protect their creation.
In terms of the stories, there is some really good stuff in here but I would like to get something off my chest that might make me unpopular. ‘Mindseed’ is dedicated to one of the authors, Denni Schnapp, who sadly died. Following the dedication and the acknowledgements but before we get to the main content, there is a passage labelled ‘Introduction’ but it is actually a long and touching eulogy on Denni Schnapp, written by her partner. I’m sorry, but this really doesn’t belong here. While there is an ‘About The Contributors’ section at the end of the anthology I’m not sure it belongs there neither. This is a very personal message about Denni Schnapp who is likely to be unknown to many of the readers of this book. It belongs on a website where family, friends and people looking for information about Denni can readily find it. I think the editors seriously misjudged by including and positioning it where they did and labelling it as an introduction when it clearly is not.
As I mentioned there are nine stories with the opening story being ‘Sex And The Single Hive Mind’ by Helen Callaghan. This is a spooky story straddling Science Fiction and horror with a vengeful twist in the tail. Superbly written, it deserves to be the first one to hit the reader. The story is set in the immediate future here on Earth and involves drugs, good cops, bad cops and some rather nasty criminals.
The other stories are:
Evolution by Fox McGeever
Living in the Vertical World by Rosanne Rabinowitz
Darkchild by Ian Whates
Rockhopper by Martin Owton & Gary Couzens
Bird Songs At Eventide by Nina Allan
Alien Invaders by Markus Wolfson
The Three Brother Cities by Deborah Walker
Mind Seed by Denni Schnapp
The devilishly clever ‘Darkchild’ by Ian Whates is one story that really got my attention. Firstly, we have an alien artefact from which nothing can be deduced so it is treated as a possible weapon. The artefact was discovered in the ruins of an alien outpost found in the asteroid belt. Secondly, we have human empaths. It’s this second point which is interesting as the main character of the story, Jus, has the right gene combination to ensure his empathy powers are as strong as they can be. It’s gene selection which makes empaths and not some special mutant power. When one of the artefact research scientists falls into a coma, he is sent to the asteroid belt to try and bring her out of it. Circumstantial evidence points to the artefact being the cause of the coma, although the investigation team have no idea why. Jus is successful in reaching the mind of the researcher but is unprepared for what happens next. This is another story with a cruel, ironic sting in its tail that actually made me laugh. Very well-written and well-paced, I’d like to read more from this author.
‘Bird Songs At Eventide’ warrants at least a full novel if not a series, although thinking about it, changes would be required. The story has, rightfully, a very melancholy air about it that reflects the disposition of the lead character, Isabel. It’s just that the ideas, the setting and the characters deserve to be expanded upon, but maybe from a more upbeat perspective. I’d love to know more about the Fendric dragons and the planet Fendric. In case you’re wondering, yes this is a Science Fiction story and not a fantasy tale that somehow slipped in unnoticed. Fendric Dragons is just what the human settlers call a species of the native wildlife. The backdrop to the story is human settlement of a new planet.
I don’t have the space to review all the stories but I would just like to mention ‘Alien Invaders’ which reminded me so much of stories from the golden age of Science Fiction. There’s rocket ships, intrigue, betrayal and, of course, alien invaders. It ticks all the right boxes for me. In the future, human politics has divided into the Greens and the Reds which makes things interesting as the Captain Jones of the terraforming vessel is a Green and his distinguished guest, Senator Dupleix, is a Red. They start arguing from the start but when things start to go wrong they have to put aside their ideological differences to survive. Not only do certain human elements, Red and Green, perceive a strategic advantage would be gained should the Senator have an ‘accident’ but a new form of life turns up. It’s not friendly neither. Things go from bad to worse for the mismatched pair as they try to survive in a desolate world where just about everyone and everything is out to get them. This is an absorbing tale which I just could not put down, reading it in one sitting.
I could wax lyrical about any of the stories as they have rightfully earned their place in this anthology. For me, the acid test is did I enjoy reading them? The answer is of course yes! It is for this reason I would recommend the ‘Mind Seed’ anthology to all Science Fiction fans as it’s something you will read and read again.
(pub: T Party Books. 201 page kindle ebook. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-291-97299-3)
check out website: www.t-party.co.uk