‘Untethered: A Magic iPhone Anthology’ is a collection of short stories where technology takes on a supernatural slant, mostly focusing on magic-imbued mobile phones and apps. I approached this feeling intrigued about the premise, but also slightly sceptical that it would turn out to be a little too contrived for my liking. However, I was pleasantly surprised at the contents of this collection and found it to be an enjoyable, if rather light read. A lot of the stories made me smile and a few made me laugh out loud, but there were also a few darker stories in there to balance it out. Very few really failed to hit the brief and there was enough variety in there to keep it interesting.
The following are the stories that stuck in my mind when the book was finished and represent both my favourites and least favourites of the collection.
I’ll start with the negative, which is the one story that I felt didn’t fit in with the rest and that was ‘One App To Rule Them All’ by Manny Frishburg and Edd Vick. It was a tale about a male couple, where one partner is getting seriously fed up with the intrusive diet-monitoring technology they both have and plots to end their relationship and regain his freedom. It wasn’t a bad story, though not really to my particular taste, but it didn’t seem to contain any magical references and so felt quite out of place in a book filled with stories about what happens when technology and magic mix.
On the other hand, one of my favourites was ‘What You’re Called To Do’ by Dale Cameron Lowry. This is a heart-warming and light-hearted story about an unemployed journalist whose iPhone starts directing him to locations where he can find and rescue stray cats. It sounds quite ridiculous when you summarise it in such a short sentence, but Lowry has created a really fun story here with magic, technology and fate all cleverly linked. It made me smile and I enjoyed the amount of depth Lowry created in his characters in such a short number of words.
‘Picture This’ by C. S. O’Cinneide presents quite a different take on the magical iPhone idea. Mel has broken her phone and can’t seem to open any pictures, but then she starts getting cryptic and slightly creepy pictures that, of course, have no problem downloading from an unknown number. As she wonders if she should report the messages to the police, Mel realises that some of them were taken inside her house and that maybe they aren’t threats but warnings. ‘Picture This’ almost feels like a modern take on the Victorian Gothic horror story, with sinister plots, deceptions and dark deeds, just all set in a bright and modern setting. The ending was strangely satisfying and it was a good blend of humour and more sinister themes.
‘Voices From Beyond The iPhone’ by Kyle Yadlosky is another of the darker tales from the book, in which a new smartphone app to channel the souls of dead loved ones undergoes testing and has some undesirable results. It’s written as a series of emails between a product tester and his boss and that style makes it stand out from the other stories. It’s also probably the creepiest story in the collection with twists I didn’t see coming.
If you’re after more Science Fiction than fantasy, there’s also a good dose of that in here, too, highlighted in A. Moritz’s tale, ‘From Siri To Sunrise: Delivering Perfection’. This follows a courier who delivers parcels to different planets with the help of her alien smartphone technology. It presented some interesting ideas and contained a few emotional moments that gave the story a real depth for something that lasted only a few pages.
Ultimately, this is an entertaining collection with a good mix of story styles and novel ideas for how magic and technology might work or not work together. I think the very specific connecting theme works well and makes it a particularly satisfying collection that I’d recommend to anyone looking for a little light escapism.
(pub: Cantina Publishing. 338 page ebook. Price: £ 8.49 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-63327-023-7)
check out website: www.cantinapublishing.com