This is not the first SFFWorld title I’ve reviewed. Previously, I’ve reviewed their 2012 (Visions of Apocalypse) and 2014 collections (Wars to End All Wars). For the most part, I enjoyed these collections and had notable favourites. So when I was offered the chance to review the collection on a theme of a subject I adore (maps), I jumped at the chance.
Maps define our world and it’s something we take for granted. They are used to inform, educate, aid, influence and yes – manipulate. I studied map theory as part of a short GIS course I did a few years ago before I decided to work as a freelance writer. Armed with the knowledge of these themes and ideas of mapping in general, I eagerly entered into this collection of 18 short stories with an open mind and a little too much excitement for a man in his 40s.
Each one focuses on a different element of maps, each utilises maps or the process of mapping in some way as an essential part of the narrative. The most interesting element is observing each writer’s perceptions of maps although not all stories look at the ideas or concepts behind maps directly. It is this that grabbed me the most and it is this I most looked forward to reading about. In that respect, the volume certainly fulfilled the potential I hoped it would fulfil. But these are short stories, and ultimately fiction is to entertain. Does it succeed in that regard?
I must say that I enjoyed every story here. It is a solid collection presenting some great ideas and some interesting stories. However, few of the stories really stood out for me above all the others. I didn’t particularly find that any kept me hooked or gripped to the extent that I flew through them. But saying that, I didn’t feel that any of them were bad either. This is a bonus as I tend to find in short story collections that some I don’t finish because they fail to grab or maintain my interest long enough to want to finish it. However, some particular favourites include:
- The Road to Pareidolia by PJ Richards. This almost vignette like short story feels like an awakening of experiencing a new love (of a subject). It’s really quite different from anything else here.
- Forward by Igor Ljubuncic. A fantastic tale of time travel that feels very much in the tradition of the golden age of science fiction. You sort of feel for most of the story that you know what’s coming, but it doesn’t make it any less enjoyable
- Remnants by Lindsey Baker. Particularly, I liked the adventurous style of this military scifi story about an investigation of a mysterious and ancient spacecraft and the Flight Lieutenant ordered to examine it. This is a real page turner
A few came close, but in the end I narrowed it down to these three as my personal highlights – I couldn’t choose a personal favourite between these three. They are all high points in what is a pretty solid volume of interesting tales. Each story brings its own rich narrative and perspective to the study and understanding of maps. That, for me, makes this one of the most interesting volumes from SFFWorld yet.