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Foursight
edited by Peter Crowther
Victor Gollancz, 216 pages

Foursight
Peter Crowther
Peter Crowther was born in 1949 in Leeds, England, where he attended Leeds Metropolitan University. He is the editor of the World Fantasy Award-nominated Narrow Houses anthology series. He lives in Harrogate, England, with his wife and two sons, and works as communications manager for one of the UK's biggest financial organizations.

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RazorBlade Press
SF Site Review: Lonesome Roads
SF Site Review: Moon Shots

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

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There are technical definitions for novellas involving word length, but most readers probably know them as those stories that are too long to be read as short stories and not long enough to be published as full-length novels. Because of this, novellas are generally found only in the magazines, with perhaps one or two finding their way into the annual "Best Of" collections. Foursight is a worthy effort to redress that grievance by collecting four novellas -- by Graham Joyce, James Lovegrove, Kim Newman and Michael Marshall Smith -- in one well-designed hardcover volume.

Graham Joyce's "Leningrad Nights" reads like a long-lost urban legend from the Great Patriotic War. Set during the 900-day siege of Leningrad, "Leningrad Nights" is sufficiently grizzly in its depiction of what it takes to survive under such circumstances. It is a story of a young man who finds both poetry and the limits of his own behaviour in the rubble of the dying city.

"How the Other Half Lives," by James Lovegrove, tells a tale of a world-dominating businessman and his magically cloned double. The narrative plays off scenes of the businessman's everyday existence against the hidden violence that supports it. There is humour here, also. (One character attends a conference on "Fractal Demonolgy.") And just when you think the story is going to go the way of too much modern horror, dealing with one violent act by following it with even harsher violence, the ending takes a sudden twist that is both surprising and actually uplifting.

The showcase story of Foursight is "Andy Warhol's Dracula" by Kim Newman. Newman, as anyone who has read In Dreams, the anthology he co-edited with Paul J. McAuley, knows, is expert in both horror and rock 'n' roll. (A suitable soundtrack for this story would include The Mekons' "Club Mekon," the first Velvet Underground album, and, believe it or not, the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive.") Here he crafts the story of a young vampire who is among the first to live in New York. The underground club scene beckons, and the story is full of encounters with the famous and infamous. It's fun stuff, and a worthy addition to vampire lore. Suddenly, Andy Warhol's life makes sense.

Foursight ends with Michael Marshall Smith's "The Vaccinator." The obvious reference point here is Men in Black from a darker perspective, but older readers may catch a hint of Keith Laumer's Retief stories. The framework of a competent few carrying on clandestinely against both the aliens and their own clueless officials is common to these stories. "Vaccinator" adds an element of suspense to its Key West setting, but this is in essence a familiar type of story, with kidnappings and aliens that need to be outwitted, and it is carried off with enough imagination and skill to make it a quite satisfying ending to Foursight.

Peter Crowther's introduction promises that another volume will follow within a year, this time with four science fiction novellas instead of Foursight's emphasis on horror. Assuming those stories will be as good as these, reserve my copy now.

Copyright © 2000 by Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L. Johnson has heard of ghosts in First Avenue, his favourite Minneapolis club, but no vampires. His reviews also appear in the The New York Review of Science Fiction.


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