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Conflicts
edited by Ian Whates
NewCon Press, 296 pages

Conflicts
Ian Whates
Ian Whates lives in a comfortable home down a quiet cul-de-sac in an idyllic Cambridgeshire village, which he shares with his partner Helen and their pets. His first published stories appeared in the late 1980s, but it was not until the early 2000s that he began to pursue writing with any seriousness. In 2006 Ian launched independent publisher NewCon Press. He is currently a director of both the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) and the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA), editing Matrix, the online news and media reviews magazine, for the latter. He has also recently been voted in as Chair of the BSFA. His novel, City of Dreams and Nightmare, marks his debut in the longer form, and he also has a pair of space opera novels in preparation for Solaris.

Ian Whates Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Anniversaries: The Write Fantastic

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

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As I said in my review of the last NewCon Press book I saw: "NewCon Press has been the source of a veritable flood of interesting new short fiction over the past few years: a few novella-length chapbooks and a variety of mostly original anthologies, these last edited by Ian Whates. So I looked forward to a new book from that combination with some interest." Conflicts is slightly more conventional than that previous book (Anniversaries) in that it is a straightforward theme anthology, of SF stories about future wars (mostly -- conflicts, at any rate).

Well, military SF is a pretty standard subgenre: not necessarily a good thing, but its very standardness implies it's quite a broad subject that has interested a lot of writers for a long time, and one that continues to have resonance for writers and readers. This book -- as usual for Whates' anthologies -- includes a pretty good quantity of less familiar names (particularly to American readers -- all the contributors, as far as I know, are from the UK) -- and as such we might hope for some surprises. So all in all I expected a lot from the book -- and perhaps those expectations contribute to a certain disappointment.

Some of this disappointment is simply a matter of taste, no doubt. For example, Andy Remic's "Psi.copath," set on a planet ravaged by left over war machines, seems intended to be funny, and for the right reader it might be, but it fell quite flat for this reader. Differently, I looked forward very much to Chris Beckett's contribution -- he's written some outstanding stories in recent years -- but his "Our Land", though well-written, seemed too stridently a by-the-numbers recasting of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as one between Celts reclaiming Britain and more-or-less contemporary English people. And more of the disappointment is just disappointment with decent but not exciting work -- most of the writers here do solid work, but rarely was I thrilled.

My favorite stories include Gareth L. Powell's "Fallout," in which a woman sort of chaperones a boy band as they visit a disaster site -- the difference is that the disaster was radiation from a crashed alien ship -- which of course implies certain possibilities when the boys go exploring. Also, Eric Brown's "Dissimulation Procedure," one of a generally enjoyable recent series about a starship captain and his crew. This one is a sort of origin story: the captain, Ed, and his engineer, Karrie, are looking for a pilot. And one Ella Rodriguez, a beautiful but strange young woman with a history, comes across them -- and she's a pilot. Of course, she's something else, as well, which wasn't a surprise to me (as I had seen a couple other stories in this series), but I'll leave the secret for the reader. At any rate, it's enjoyable if rather slight old-fashioned SF. Finally, Una McCormick's "War Without End" looks at the losing general of a long concluded war returning to the planet upon which he failed to stop a revolution. He's a villain to the inhabitants, of course, and he has his own issues to work through. There's not much new here -- and one could argue that the story didn't need to be SF, even -- but I found it fairly absorbing.

As I have said, the rest of the book is generally decent work, but never quite brilliant. Conflicts won't stand as one of the best anthologies of 2010, but it does offer fair value, all told.

Copyright © 2010 Rich Horton

Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at http://www.sff.net/people/richard.horton.


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