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by China Miéville, Michael Moorcock, Paul di Filippo, Geoff Ryman
edited by Peter Crowther

(Gollancz, £12.99, 292 pages, hardback, published 17 April 2003; individual novellas previously published as separate volumes by PS Publishing.)


by Eric Brown, Ken MacLeod, Alastair Reynolds, Adam Roberts
edited by Peter Crowther

(Gollancz, £12.99, 358 pages, hardback, published 16 May 2002; individual novellas previously published as separate volumes by PS Publishing.)

Among my many roles at infinity plus, that of UK reviews cover scaneditor can be one of the most traumatic. All those review copies arrive in the post and then ... I have to send them out again to our team of reviewers, instead of keeping them for myself.

To be frank, while I hesitate to judge books by their covers and publicity slips, I'm quite happy to pass a lot of them on to others, but sometimes it's a painful process. Pete Crowther, publisher of PS Publishing, the originator of the novella series gathered together in the volumes considered here, has been responsible for much of that pain. Every so often, a set of review copies arrives from PS, and almost immediately a reviewer volunteers for them and I have to pass them on. And then I get the reviews back, more often than not telling me that I've just missed out on yet another superb piece of writing by an author on top form.

PS has a knack for bringing out the best in their writers. There's something about the freedom of cover scanwriting for a publisher that trusts writers to do their own thing. And, as has often been asserted, there is something about the novella length that has always been suited to speculative fiction. As a reviewer, I don't buy much genre fiction as I tend to read review copies, but I do buy PS books. That says a lot (particularly to those of you who know how tight-fisted I am).

As I said in my round-up review of the previous volume in this Foursight series, British sf is flourishing and Peter Crowther has played an important part in this, providing opportunities for some of our best authors to work at a length that is generally assumed to be hard to publish successfully.

Gollancz, too, deserve a lot of credit for backing this venture. The novellas are initially published individually by PS Publishing (with generally excellent introductions from a variety of high-profile contributors, sadly lost in the Gollancz editions), and then compiled by Gollancz into the back-to-back Binaries series of twinned novellas, and also into these four-packs. The Foursight volumes are, quite simply, supreme examples of publishing: well-produced hardback volumes with fine covers, and clever and distinctive design. These books, simply as objects, are clearly put together by people who really care.

Enough of the book fetishism -- to the contents! Each of the novellas in these two volumes has been previously reviewed at infinity plus. Here's what our reviewers had to say.

Cities contains the following four novellas:

  • The Tain by China Miéville
    "A China Mieville book which feels stripped down to its essentials ... can stand with the best work of another stylist of decaying empires, Lucius Shepard" (reviewed by Graham Sleight)
  • Firing the Cathedral by Michael Moorcock
    "A surreal cut'n'pasted gallop through a blackly comic near future ... a blisteringly satirical look at the times and the state that we're in" (reviewed by Stuart Carter)
  • A Year in the Linear City by Paul di Filippo
    "Fiction of the highest order ... an author who genuinely comes close to defying all attempts at description" (reviewed by Keith Brooke)
  • VAO by Geoff Ryman
    "VAO is a smart, funny tale about old age, Alzheimer's disease, and crime in the near future ... wonderfully engaging" (reviewed by Chris Butler)

Infinities contains the following four novellas:

  • A Writer's Life by Eric Brown
    "In favour of A Writer's Life is its authentic texture, its astute evocations of literary frustration and an author's efforts to reconcile his aesthetic and emotional worlds" (reviewed by Nick Gevers)
  • The Human Front by Ken MacLeod
    "I was disappointed by The Human Front, not deeply and miserably, but just broadly..." (reviewed by Stuart Carter)
  • Diamond Dogs by Alastair Reynolds
    "First-person narrative, fast-moving, with short chapters and a claustrophobic setting ... the appeal of 'Dogs' is all in the telling, and a large part of that is characterisation" (reviewed with Turquoise Days by John Toon)
  • Park Polar by Adam Roberts
    "I suspect a longer work might develop theme and character more: there's certainly room for expansion on both counts. But as it is, it's an only intermittently engaging read" (reviewed by Gary Couzens)

Omnibus review by Keith Brooke; individual reviews as credited.

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