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The Bakka Anthology, edited by Kristen Pederson Chew, Bakka Books, 2002, 197 pp.
The Bakka Anthology is a collection of stories written by authors who have worked at the Bakka science fiction store in Toronto. I was somewhat worried about this anthology because I had this feeling that it would be filled with a selection of two strains of story: the cutesy bookstore with quirky characters or the much too common mysterious bookstore with an ominous owner. I can think of nearly a dozen stories like the latter category off the top of my head, including works by such otherwise original authors like Harlan Ellison and Robert Charles Wilson, and any number of Twilight Zone or Outer Limits episodes. Fortunately, there is only one story of this type in The Bakka Anthology, and not coincidentally, it’s the weakest story of the bunch. Quite a few talented authors have worked at Bakka, and that shows through on nearly every page.
The book opens with a story called “Shed Skin” by Robert J. Sawyer. Sawyer contributes a clearly written and compelling story in the vein of Greg Egan’s early short stories. It’s a story told from the point of view of a discarded body, the meat that gets left behind when a man named George Rathburn decides to transfer his consciousness to an essentially immortal artificial body. What rights does the shed skin have? Is it/he still human? In this story, Sawyer displays his usual knack for dramatizing the dilemmas that happen with every advance in technology.
“Another Fine Nest” by Tanya Huff is a Vicki Nelson short story, following sometime after the events of the fifth of the Blood novels, Blood Debt. Vicki is in fine form, this time fighting off an infestation of nasty bugs in Toronto. Huff is a canny writer, who has a keen sense for the line between humour and seriousness; her stories, when they are funny, never destroy the foundations of the structure. In other words, “Another Fine Nest” is simultaneously a great lark and a well-told adventure.
“Lucky Charm” by Fiona Patton is about some country hicks who come to Toronto. The town they are from has an unusually high proportion of people with various mental powers. The main character named George has returned to his ancestral town and discovered all kinds of interesting things. Maybe he might even stay.
Michelle Sagara West contributes “How to Kill an Immortal,” an evocative story in an unusual style. Is it possible to kill an immortal? Who would want to know such a thing? Read this story to find out.
“Family Matters” by Tara Tallon is an effective story about kids growing up on a spaceship; most of the people on the ship are scientists, and these oh-so-serious adults don’t really want the children there. It’s both a growing up story, and a story about how adults can easily forget the potential of their children. Nat is a young girl getting into all kinds of trouble onboard the spaceship. She ends up in a scary confrontation with the intimidating Captain Mayhari, and eventually her parents find out too.
“Truncat” by Cory Doctorow follows roughly in the same universe as his first novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. Adrian lives in Toronto, and he’s a member of a young generation known as The Million; he’s one of only a million kids born in his generation worldwide. Doctorow’s future is detailed, intricate, and closely extrapolated from social developments surrounding information technology. Excellent work.
Nalo Hopkinson’s “Herbal” is only a few pages long; it’s a striking bit of surrealism. I only wish it were longer.
“The Steps You Have to Take” by Chris Szego is a touching fantasy story. It’s a homecoming and unrequited love and nobleman loves peasant kind of story all wrapped in one.
Ed Greenwood’s “All One Under the Stars” is the bookstore story that I mentioned at the beginning of my review. It’s not all that bad; it’s well written and has a number of nicely placed gags. Unfortunately, it’s competing in an incredibly crowded subgenre of short science fiction and it simply can’t make its own place.
The Bakka Anthology is an elegant edition, with a deep black cover and a stylized white art deco illustration. It has a foreword by Mark Askwith, an introduction by Spider Robinson, and an afterword by John Rose. John Rose, the owner of Bakka, is featured in a photograph with Frank Herbert in the beginning of the book; the name Bakka comes from a word used in the Dune novels, so it’s an appropriate photo. This book brings the Bakka line of books to five, following A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder, Sunburst, Consider Her Ways, and West of January. I can only hope that Bakka continues to put out such handsome editions of interesting works.
First posted: March 4, 2003; Last modified: March 30, 2004
Copyright © 2003-2004 by James Schellenberg (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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