This whopping collection of 53 stories is just over a quarter of a million words long, and explores the genres of science fiction, fantasy, horror and all the mash-ups in between. It was published to raise money for the NHS during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is the first good reason to buy it. The second is that it’s a genuinely great collection.
Proper anthologies aren’t just a bunch of stories lumped together, they are selected and assembled with great care to bring out resonances between the narratives, enrich each one, and make the reader feel they are immersed in something special. This is almost a masterclass in how to do it right.
I won’t list and analyse every story, because that would take ages and I’d rather you read the book. I also won’t pick out favourites, because all the stories are worthy of your attention. This small publisher has amassed working relationships with some of the best writers in the field, and is in a unique position to assemble such a collection.
Despite being incredibly varied, the tales have elements in common. One is their readability. This word is often misused, and indeed it is the first time I’ve employed it in a review – but then these are unusual times. I’ve done so because the casual browser may think that science fiction, fantasy or horror are not for them. Stop! Scroll back. Think again. These are accessible stories. For all their invention and strangeness, they will be enjoyed by people who might not usually buy a collection like this one. There are twists and shocks, odd machines and strange words, but also stories that would be just at home in a litfic collection.
There’s very little swearing or erotica, although there is much tenderness, so this would be fine for a younger reader. The stories are nearly all Earth-based. There are no space battles, only a few aliens, and not much violence – certainly no more than the average Harry Potter book. There are robots and elves, but they are rendered with such humanity you care as deeply about them as you do the inspired, mournful or demented human cast that populates the rest of the tales. This is an ideal volume to either dip into or devour obsessively – indeed, it is the perfect lockdown read.
However, as science fiction and reality change places with such frequency we seem to be living in a conceptual strobe effect, it’s worth considering the title of this volume. Hope is a no-brainer – there’s nothing wrong with believing in it, even when things are this bleak. Wonder is a bit trickier; in science fiction, it’s often associated with glorious vistas of the cosmic sublime. Here though it’s at the heart of these stories, which are informed by the power of love.
Please buy this book here and write your own review to ensure it gets the attention it deserves.