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The Ocean and All Its Devices
William Browning Spencer
Subterranean Press, 195 pages

The Ocean and All Its Devices
William Browning Spencer
William Browning Spencer is the author of the spectacular Zod Wallop. His othe books include Resume With Monsters and the short story collection, The Return of Count Electric.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Irrational Fears
SF Site Review: Zod Wallop

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Mario Guslandi

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More than ten years after his first collection, the critically acclaimed The Return of Count Electric, William Browning Spencer returns, much to his fans' delight, with a second volume of short fiction.

The book assembles nine previously published stories, scattered so far among the pages of a number of genre magazines. Except, of course, the title story, that I still remember since I first read it in the Thomas Monteleone anthology Borderlands 4 and that prompted me to seek after Spencer's present collection, looking for other, similar gems.

For those who never got to see that story, "The Ocean and Other Devices" is a dark, exquisite tale taking place off season in a hotel by the ocean, hosting a weird family hiding a terrible secret about their young daughter. In spite of the author's quiet and unassuming narrative style the effect is downright terrifying.

Another outstanding piece is the fascinating "The Oddkeeper's Daughter" telling us about the love story and the marriage between two individuals from parallel worlds and describing the unavoidable influence of odds and numbers on their subsequent life together. Truly a standing example of first-class fantasy.

In the excellent "The Death of the Novel" the author reports, in a detached but effective manner, the love affair between a college teacher and one of his female students and its uncanny outcome, while in the unusual "Your Faithful Servant" a peculiar butler explains his ways to his master's daughter.

I found "Foster Child" -- a tiny story featuring a little girl who can only speak in verses taken from the world literature and who is torn between two parallel universes -- captivating but somehow unfinished, a missed opportunity to develop the idea into a more complex and mature piece of fiction.

By contrast, the delightful "The Lights of Armageddon" is a very original, accomplished tale representing the eternal struggle between Light and Darkness to gain control of the world by means of different, peculiar light bulbs. Here the writer is again at his best, masterly blending humour and tragedy in the still of the Florida nights.

The remaining stories are far less memorable, like the obscure "A Halfway House at the Heart of Darkness" set in the world of virtual reality and the semi-humorous "The Essayist in the Wilderness," relating the unsuccessful attempts of a would-be writer to establish a good relationship with an unforgiving nature.

All in all The Ocean and All Its Devices is a delectable book by a gifted writer, which will please not only the aficionados of SF and fantasy but any good fiction lover.

Copyright © 2006 by Mario Guslandi

Mario Guslandi lives in Milan, Italy, and is a long-time fan of dark fiction. His book reviews have appeared on a number of genre websites such as The Alien Online, Infinity Plus, Necropsy, The Agony Column and Horrorwold.


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