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edited by Peter Crowther
Gollancz, 292 pages

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.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Mars Probes
SF Site Review: Foursight
SF Site Review: The Hand That Feeds
SF Site Review: Lonesome Roads
SF Site Review: Moon Shots

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

Peter Crowther has been publishing excellent novellas for the past few years, including the Sidewise Award-winning The Human Front by Ken MacLeod. He's also begun collecting these novellas into books of four for those who aren't able to find the limited run chapbooks in their initial form. Four such stories were collected into the anthology Futures, and now Crowther has collected four more in Cities. The quartet opens with Paul Di Filippo's Hugo-nominated A Year in the Linear City.

This is a good starting point, because the real hero of A Year in the Linear City, despite the appearance of characters such as Diego Patchen and Zohar Kush, is the titular city itself, which evokes Mervyn Peake's massive structure, Gormenghast. Di Filippo presents a series of incidents which occur throughout the course of a year as Diego Patchen builds up his career as an author of Cosmogonic Fiction and his relationship with the fire fighting Amazon, Volusia Bittern. Even as life on those two fronts move forward, he runs into problems with his aging father, Gaddis Patchen and his long-time friend, Zohar Kush, whose life is going in the opposite direction as he deals with his girlfriend's heroin addiction. Although there is little in the way of anything that could be called a plot, Gritsavage, Palmerdale, and the other boroughs of the Linear City reek of atmosphere which carried the story through to its end (which can hardly be called a conclusion).

China Miéville's New Crobuzan has many of the same traits as Di Filippo's Linear City, but it is not the subject of his story The Tain. Instead, Miéville visits New Crobuzon's model London in this post-apocalyptic tale. Vastly depopulated of humans and now home to numerous imagos and vampires, the London of The Tain shares a feel with the classic novel The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham. Miéville focuses his attention on Sholl, a loner and survivor who finds time to question the existence of the imagos and, eventually, commandeers a troop of irregulars to help him gain answers. Miéville also tells the story of an imago who has made his way from the other side of the mirror world, which has invaded our world. The opposing (literally) viewpoints, raise the story above the level of simply the tale of survival and invasion. Furthermore, the story is written with Miéville's standard exceptional flair for atmosphere and his catastrophic London comes alive.

While Michael Moorcock has frequently featured London in his stories, from the novels Mother London and King of the City to the various tales of Jerry Cornelius, the Jerry Cornelius story Firing the Cathedral is set in a world similar to our modern world. Not focusing as much on cities as the previous stories, but very closely tied to the events and aftermath of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. Moorcock's scattershot writing style in Firing the Cathedral, and even more importantly his scattershot social commentary, will not be to every reader's taste, and nearly everyone will find some opinion in the work to be offensive. Such would appear to be, at least in part, Moorcock's motive in writing this novella, to stir up real thought about the events which is frequently lacking in the blind jingoism being expressed by so many in Moorcock's adopted country.

Geoff Ryman examines society's response to growing older in V.A.O. The novella is set within the confines of the Happy Farm retirement center and focuses on Alistair Brewster, who manages to cover his extreme costs by using his computer to hack into bank accounts and siphon off small amounts. Brewster's past included major work on the creation of VAO, Victim Activated Ordinance, which is used by security firms to target trespassers whose features are not in the security systems' database. Retirees who can't afford the high cost of managed living are finding themselves in street gangs, acting out Age Rage. Their leader, the enigmatic Silhouette, has found a way to use VAO against its owners. Ryman employs humor in his cautionary tale which manages to provide both an expected and a surprise ending in a relatively short space.

The four novellas collected in Cities live up to the standards set by PS Publishing for their individually published books and provide the fiction with an outlet which can reach a broader range of readers than the limited publication these stories have previously achieved.

Copyright © 2003 Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is a four-time Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer and the editor of the anthologies Wondrous Beginnings, Magical Beginnings, and Horrible Beginnings (DAW Books, January, February and March, 2003). In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is heavily involved in convention running and publishes the fanzine Argentus.

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