Tales from the Crypto-System
(Prime Books, $17.95.)
Eidolon, Aurealis, and Redsine,
but whose work I wasn't familiar with until I came upon this Prime Books'
collection. In a way this was pleasing, because I had few preconceptions
when I began to read, and so was gleefully surprised once I discovered
the quality of the fiction was high.
is an Australian writer who has been widely published in Antipodean
magazines such as
There are twenty-one first-class stories in this anthology, each indicative
of Maloney's thoughtful, insightful prose, and imbued with a strong
literary sensibility that I enjoy with speculative fiction. In addition
to spanning some universal SF themes (frequently the uses and abuses
of bio-technology), there are also some pieces containing elements of
Borges-esque detective fiction (reminiscent of "The Garden of Forking
Paths", for example). And the inter-correlation between some of the
stories also produces a thematic and wholly satisfying read.
In "The Elephant Sways As It Walks" a semi-comatose man uses meditation
to return to the India of his past, trying to undo the violence that
has befallen him and being constantly frustrated until he finds the
quirk which enables him to achieve his goal. This is a beautifully rendered
piece of fiction, with the Indian locations vivid and believable, and
Maloney gets under our skins sufficiently for us to hope that the protagonist
In "Memories of the Colour-Fields" the vibrancy of a world is lost
when attempts to mine its soil serve only to undermine nature and render
the planet unusable. Indicative of mankind's selfish motives, and without
aforethought to the consequences, Maloney's style personalises a common
theme and brings the pathos home.
Some of these stories are set in a future Australia, run by a corrupt
although essentially benign government, and beset by individuals out
for what they can get so long as they can shake off the informers. Stories
such as "5 Cigarettes & 2 Snakes" and "Keeping the Meter Running" have
an unreal feeling of realness about them fusing SF with Noir but retaining
a distinctive Maloney style. The prose is considered and delicate, clever
and rewarding in turns.
There are a couple of the pieces which feel out of place, especially
"Meat Puppets" which is a standard horror story that would be fine in
an ordinary writer's collection, but which hangs uncomfortably here.
Overall, however, "Tales From the Crypto-System" delivers intelligent,
thoughtful fiction that entertains as well as intrigues. Definitely
worth reading, and then definitely worth reading again.