Fantasy, Fiction, Science Fiction

Collection: Fall Into Time by Douglas Lain

September 21, 2012

After reading the quick little collection Fall Into Time (2011), I think Douglas Lain may be one of my favorite short story writers.  As I mentioned in my review of Last Week’s Apocalypse, I don’t always get what he’s doing…but I think that’s part of what I like about it.  I find his voice consistently funny and intelligent, and he makes me think in weird new ways.

A strong undercurrent of sociopolitical critique propels these four stories, which blend conventional SF tropes with something of a fabulist feel – mundane surfaces, spun fantastically.  Celebrity cameos, political theory, pop culture riffs, and historical references color the proceedings throughout, making these very much stories of their time, even as they possess a thematic timelessness.  The strongest here, I think, is “Noam Chomsky and the Time Box,” an addictively entertaining novelette in which time travel becomes ubiquitous thanks to an iPhone-like consumer electronics device.  Unfortunately, because the timeline appears to be immutable, the phenomenon turns out to be a flash-in-the-pan fad – but not for an obsessed tech blogger determined to reshape history.  Behind the snappy, engaging voice is a heavy embedded message about ineffectual human systems.  That said, I think “Resurfacing Billy” – one of my favorite stories we published at Futurismic – may also be my favorite in this collection, though surely I’m biased.  (Sadly, the site is incorrectly listed as Futurisma in the credits…now ain’t that a kick in the teeth!)  This story, about a waste management designer struggling to help his son adjust to a disturbingly dystopian near future, is a humorous but unsettling metaphor for American disposability.  The bizarre stream-of-consciousness of “The Last Apollo Mission” and the amusing, recursive metafiction of “Alien Invasion / Coffee Cup Story” round off a short but satisfying collection.  It’s a thought-provoking sampler of Lain’s work, using a light, quirky touch to wrestle with thorny, serious subject matter.

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