Tim Pratt’s collection Antiquities and Tangibles & Other Stories (2013) gathers twenty-three stories and a poem, most of them originally published between 2006 and 2012: a mere fraction of his prolific output, in other words. It’s a great sample of his accessible and engaging storytelling.
Pratt’s style is breezy and effortlessly read, and while the stories vary in quality, there are plenty of memorable highlights. My favorites were two literary metafiction pieces: “Unexpected Outcomes,” a thought-provoking SFnal novelette that cleverly questions the nature of post-9/11 reality, and the Sturgeon-nominated “Her Voice in a Bottle,” perhaps the most beautiful piece on offer, about a lost love who may or may not have existed. The strongest core SF tale for me was the funny and inventive “Artifice & Intelligence,” an entertaining riff on the “ghost in the machine” concept about AI gods and an international crimefighting organization. I’m also rather partial to “A Programmatic Approach to Perfect Happiness,” a sharp short about robots, mood-modulation, and airborne pharmaceuticals. (Full disclosure: that one originally appeared at Futurismic, so I may be biased.)
There’s also plenty of contemporary fantasy and dark fiction here, most of it quirky and creative: imagine a modern Twilight Zone anthology series, style ranging from the humorous to the macabre. A couple that stuck with me: “The Secret Beach,” about an impossible place and a man who resists his “destiny,” and “Right Turns,” about a couple who buy a house with a mysterious labyrinth in the basement. The poem is the beautiful “Scientific Romance,” which may be the ultimate love poem for folks of the science fiction persuasion.
Overall, a rich and rewarding read full of fun stuff – and incidentally, it’s got a great cover by the wonderful and amazing Jenn Reese of Tiger Bright Studios! (Full disclosure: she’s my sweetheart.)