Voices by Colin P. Davies (book review).

December 8, 2014 | By | Reply More

Featuring a stylish cover by Richard Wagner, ‘Voices’ is the second short story collection from Colin P. Davies, whose stories have appeared in such magazines as ‘Asimov’s Magazine’, as well as many others for over twenty years. There are twenty stories in the collection, each of which have an honest, down-to-earth feel to them (even those not set on Earth) featuring characters from all kinds of backgrounds, but all of them sympathetic and accessible. The protagonists often have tragedy in their past, sometimes defining the tale and sometimes informing its backdrop. A recurring theme is mankind’s relationship with the native species of worlds he has colonised. These don’t always work out too well, but each instance is handled in an interesting way without being preachy or patronising. I’ll not comment on all twenty stories, save to say I enjoyed them all, but I’ll mention a few of my highlights and the four stories that are new for this collection.

Voices

‘Ferry Day’ is the first of those new stories, set in the future of the author’s home city of Liverpool. As in several of the stories in this volume, the protagonist is struggling to come to terms with loss and, in common with several of them, the benefits of new technology in this regard are doubtful. It’s a short story, poignant and affecting.

On a far future colony world, humans share their planet with ‘An Honourable Race’ who reside on a separate continent with their advanced technology and civilisation. Humans live a pastoral life in envy of their neighbours, but as the story plays out their joint history proves to be much more interesting than expected. I particularly enjoyed this alternative to many other tales I’ve read of colonial antagonism.

‘In A Two-Dimensional World, It’s Okay To Be Shallow’ is a short story with a great title, about a possibly-bigoted cartoonist and his struggle to distance himself from his character’s attitudes. It’s not a surprising story, but the wry humour carries it off nicely.

The title story ‘Voices’ is the highlight of the collection for me, possibly the strongest story with an interesting character and intriguing situation. James is a man born blind, something very difficult for anyone sighted to imagine, but the story told from his viewpoint, if that is even the appropriate word, does a fine job of describing his life through his other senses, balancing this with enough information for the reader to visualise the setting. The voices of the title refer to the echoes of the residents’ voices emanating from some kind of ocean-dwelling entity. James’ relationship with the other characters and with the voices form an effective and memorable tale.

‘Rapta Adapta’ looks at the acronym-laden world where voyeuristic entertainment allows you to see the world through the eyes of genetically modified animals. It is again a short tale, carried off with a decent dollop of irony and wordplay to make it nicely entertaining.

The final and longest story of the collection is ‘Julian Of Earth’, another story of a world where human colonists live in uneasy peace with the neighbouring aboriginal species. Tarn is the local celebrity, kidnapped when young by a mythical war hero, who now earns a living as a tour guide, milking his reputation for all it’s worth. When a film crew arrives from Earth, things get interestingly complicated and provide a captivating finale to the book.

Colin P. Davis has and enjoyable style and this collection is well worth a read, a solid collection of genuine Science Fiction stories that touch on many popular themes and develop them in satisfying directions. I shall watch out for more of his stories with interest.

Gareth D. Jones

December 2014

(pub: Immersion Press. 283 page hardback. Price: £14.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-9563924-8-0)

check out website: www.immersionpress.com

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Category: Books, Scifi

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