Saturday, 16 January 2016

Music from the Fifth Planet by Anne Nicholls

Reviewer: Barbara Scott Emmett, author of Delirium: The Rimbaud Delusion, The Land Beyond Goodbye, and Don’t Look Down.

What We Thought: First of all, ignore the cover completely. When I first saw it, it made me think this was a collection of bog standard science fiction stories which didn’t especially appeal. Fortunately, I looked inside and discovered it was anything but what I had imagined. There is some sci-fi in this collection but it’s certainly not the main thrust of the anthology, though all the stories are in some way speculative.

Music from the Fifth Planet by Anne Nicholls is eclectic and well written; the offerings range from the futuristic to pastiches of the short fiction of the past. Actually, ‘pastiches’ probably isn’t the right word as even the stories set in the past are as original as those set in the future or the altered present. We visit different countries, different times, different planets and different realities; from China in the early 20th century, to Sherlock Holmes in the 19th, from lost valleys to high tech futures, from mysterious deaths to vengeful artists.

There is something for everyone here – humour, action, literary language, imaginitive plots and fascinating characters. Sometimes the plots are confusing and seem not to be fully resolved but the writing is so good this hardly matters. I found the stories gripping even while I was puzzling at the outcomes or lack thereof.

There is no doubt Anne Nicholls is a talented and intelligent writer; the worlds she creates are fully rounded, visual, and beautifully described. As much as anything, it’s the way these intriguing stories are told that holds the reader; the wit, humour and sense of justice shines through.

You’ll enjoy this if you like: Good writing in a variety of genres.

Avoid if you dislike: Vague outcomes and puzzling resolutions.

Ideal accompaniments: A tankard of blood at the Carpathian Arms.

Genre: General/Speculative Fiction. Short stories.

Available from Amazon

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