Both of Phil Purser-Hallard’s contributions are brief, but cap the collection quite nicely. They give the finished product a sense of collaboration, as well as providing context in regards to the last Faction Paradox short story collection.
Happily Ever After Is a High-Risk Strategy by Blair Bidmead:
Here it is, the first story taking place in the City written by anyone else other than PPH. Bidmead shows the concept is safe in capable hands. We meet three citizens, we get to see more of the city. Well, make that two citizens and a visitor to the city in the form of a very pleasing return of the enigmatic Theo Possible, (who you may remember from Bidmead’s story in “The Panda Book of Horror”). This story contains a quite amusing chase scene that wouldn’t be out of place in an Avengers episode. I want to see more of Possible.
In Blair’s defense, I’d just point out that while “Fear and Loathing” was a road movie, Blair’s Señor 105 story itself (“Are you Loathsome Tonight?”) doesn’t fall under that category, taking place entirely inside of a hotel. It was more of a base-under-siege story complete with psychedelic lizards.
The Socratic Problem by Elizabeth Evershed – very evocative of the original City of the Saved novel while being original. The phrase “Never Meet Your Heroes” comes to mind and was a subject dying to be explored in the City.
Lost Ships and Lost Lands by Juliet Kemp: I really like that Juliet chose to explore the unusual topography of the City, not just it’s unusual inhabitants. It left me wanting more.
Highbury By Helen Angove: I enjoyed this story despite not being big on Austen-esque literature, but the fact it worked against the grain made it intriguing. It works in a serious way that parodies such as “Sense and Sensibility and Seamonsters” don’t. This is a strength of stories set in the city. Disparate elements can be combined and still be taken seriously in a way that a story like “Iris and Irregularity” (by Jac Rayner in “Wildthyme on Top”) feels more like a parody.
About a Girl – Dale Smith: I like Smith’s use of Pop Culture and post-human characters, which feels a bit different to the more prevalent use of figures from Earth’s past. The issue of using a celebrity from recent memory is handled well in the case of… oh, Nevermind.
Bruises – Dave Hoskin: This reads like a J.G.Ballard novel, I kept expecting a bruised Elizabeth Taylor to show up with a Violent Femmes soundtrack in tow. Excellent!