Monday, October 08, 2007

Book review: Tales from the Secret City

I suppose I can't really call this post a book review, otherwise I would have to review each story in this anthology. And I'm not going to do that. So, call it what you will.

"Tales from the Secret City" is a collection of stories of various Austin science fiction and fantasy writers, many of who I've met personally. Many of them don't have a lot of publishing credentials; they are still trying to make their first sale (though some of them have already sold stories, even novels). So I had two good personal reasons for reading this book. I'm always curious to read the work of people I know, and I identify with aspiring writers. :-)

The anthology turned out to be not bad, though I can't say any of the stories struck me as stunningly good. The overall quality is comparable to another anthology of stories by local SF writers -- "Cross Plains Universe" -- and the latter has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award!

It would be too tedious to comment on each story, so I'll mention just the one that was the most memorable to me. (Which is not to say it's the best -- this is just a reflection of my taste, nothing else.) It was "Nothing Personal" by Odessa Cole. Haven't most of us felt that our gadgets have conspired against us? Well, in this story they actually do. Normally, I'm not too fond of technological dystopias, but this tale of a guy trapped in a hell of "smart technology" appealed to me for unusual reasons. Suspecting that his "smart card" deliberately lies to him about his finances, he spends the rest of the story troubleshooting it. This story devotes an amount of loving detail to the troubleshooting process you can't expect from any real-life tech support person. :-)

There is a term "gadget fetish", but I don't think I've ever heard a term "debugging fetish". But if you have the latter, you'll find this story really sexy. :-)

Well, I can't say I always get my kicks out of debugging things. There are lots of technologies out there I wouldn't approach with a ten-foot pole, as their complexity simultaneously scares and bores me. And yet, once I get deeply into something, I do get a thrill out of troubleshooting it. And that's the part of me this story indulged.

No comments: