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Flying Saucer Stories
David B. Riley
Timescape Books, 157 pages

Flying Saucer Stories
David B. Riley
David B. Riley has been writing for a very long time. He decided to put together some of his earlier stories into a collection. For some reason, his earlier works seem centered around the subject of flying saucers.

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A review by Richard A. Lupoff

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The POD revolution and the e-book revolution, coming one on the heels of the other, have left the publishing world in a complete state of befuddlement. Believe me. It's the world I live in and have lived in for most of my life. Nobody here knows which way is up any more.

One thing that we do know, however, is that POD (Print-On-Demand) technology and e-books have had a democratizing effect on literature. Publishing a book used to be a painstaking and expensive proposition. Not any more. Anybody with a computer and internet access and a modicum of skill can publish his or her own book with relative ease and at little or no expense.

Is this a good thing, or is it bad? On the up side, it means that books of real merit but of limited interest that once were difficult if not impossible to publish, are increasingly and readily available. Good news for their authors and for their readers. But on the down side, it means that a great deal of junk that would never have got past a First Reader's homework file, no less a senior editor's scrutiny, is now finding its way into paper or electronic "print."

Which brings us to David B. Riley and his book Flying Saucer Stories. This slim volume contains some fourteen short stories and a couple of poems on the connecting theme of interplanetary visitation. Mostly, Earth is visited by visitors from a planet you've never heard of before. They come and go in graceful silvery disks. Occasionally, it's the Earth folks who visit the aliens on their home worlds.

Most of the content of the book has been published previously in such venues as The Vampire's Crypt, Virgin Meat, Startling Science Stories, and Strange Days. It's probably testimony to my own out of-it-ness in terms of the current scene, that I have never heard of any of these publications, no less seen copies.

Mr. Riley, I can tell you, writes engagingly and with a touch both light and smooth. This is a not a book for the UFO cultist. There are no white-robed blond angels bringing messages of love and enlightenment from the planet Venus, no Atlanean priests reaching out across the ages to share their lost wisdom, nor sinister conspiracies by members of the covert world government.

The flying saucers in this book are generally manned (if that's the right word) by little green guys about three feet high with antennae growing out of their craniums like organic deely bobbers. Some of the stories seem to be barely more than slightly extended jokes. Perhaps the most interesting of them is "The Brother," apparently written especially for this book. Or maybe the author was unable to place it elsewhere, but I find that hard to believe. It's complex and intelligent and has the admirable quality of staying with the reader despite the intervening influence of later stories.

Imagine Jesus preaching to a brotherhood of vampires, getting them to swear off human blood and offering them a kind of bloodless immortality in return. Then imagine the population of vampires spanning the galaxy, descended from another species (Valpyres) who maintain human populations for feeding stock. It's a crazy story but oddly compelling.

Other praiseworthy stories in the book include "Message from a Distant World," which in this reviewer's estimation is the closest thing in the book to conventional science fiction, and "Duel in the Desert," a bizarre hybrid of visiting extraterrestrials and familiar Western imagery. All of this, one infers, before the film Cowboys and Aliens hit the screen.

Flying Saucer Stories is not a major book by an stretch of the imagination, but it is highly readable good fun. David B. Riley is a byline I'll look for again.

Copyright © 2012 Richard A. Lupoff

Richard A. Lupoff is a prolific and versatile author of fantasy, mystery, and science fiction. His recent books include a novel, The Emerald Cat Killer, a multi-genre collection of stories, Dreams, and the forthcoming novel Rookie Blues. His chief contribution to Lovecraftiana is Marblehead: A Novel of H.P. Lovecraft, available at www.ramblehouse.com.


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