Tides and Other Tales by Mary
Dark Regions Press, Trade Paperback 2002: ISBN 1888993316
Review by EJ McClure
204 pages List price
Buy this book and support SFRevu at Amazon.com
Mary Soon Lees second anthology offers a wide-angle view on the future
that are sure to bemuse and beguile. Four of the 20 stories in Ebb
Tide are new, while the rest are reprints from an impressive range
of magazines: Aboriginal Science Fiction, Amazing, Fantasy
& Science Fiction, and Interzone, to name a few.
Lees academic credentials (an M.A. in mathematics and a Diploma in
computer science from Cambridge, along with an M.Sc. in astronautics and
space engineering from Cranfield University) provide her a broad array
of topics from which to knowledgeably and plausibly construct
alternative futures. Her innate sympathy and delight in the vagaries of
human nature infuse her characters with likeability. She doesn't
go in for long descriptions, but instead builds a conspiracy of
understanding by sharing a few carefully selected details with her
"Ebb Tides", the title story, is darker than most of the
stories in the anthology. Clarissa's mother loves her daughter
just as she is. To avoid the upgrades mandatory in America for all
children afflicted by degenerative impaired mentation syndrome, she left
security and luxury behind to devote herself to Clarissa's care and
well-being. She can't stand the thought of her daughter being
turned into an expensive human robot. But she could not have
imagined what the alternative would cost. What constitutes
humanity, and what right or duty do we have to alter that programming?
"Luna Classifieds" is a droll pastiche of classified ads from
folks on the Luna Colony. At first they seem a random collection
of offerings, but I gradually realized that they are jigsaw pieces of
broken promises, lost hopes, and second chances.
"The Day Before They Came" celebrates the wonder of a mundane
life controlled by routines. All of us have had occasion to
realize how precious normalcy is, after it is shattered. So we can
sympathize with Molly Harris, whose biggest decision is choosing the
right kind of AI shoes for her son's birthday gift. But what if my
birthday doesn't come? Justin demanded . . .
Who hasn't suffered the frustration of getting stuck in a computer
voice-menu that refuses to permit you human contact just to ask a simple
question. "1-800-CLONE-ME" made me laugh aloud. Though
perhaps God's self-proclaimed messenger shouldn't have lost his temper
with the AI program that was, after all, only doing its job.
"Plant Life" is a clever tale of greed and murder from a green
perspective. Stuck-up Chloe, the pampered spider plant; Marshall, the
aspidistra with military pretensions acquired during his youth in an
army supply depot; the stubby cactus Maude--what motive could the
Have you ever been stuck on a long plane flight with a cranky infant in
the row behind you? Ever wished you could somehow stop the
howling, just for a minute? Imagine being able to skip the
Terrible Twos altogether! And you can, in "PauseTime".
Pauline knows that having a child doesn't have to be a life
sentence; with the conveniences of modern technology, she can still have
a life of her own . . . and be a mother when she has the time and energy
to cope with it. But every decision has consequences.
With over 60 publications to her credit, Lee has clearly mastered the
art of the short story. Some of these tales are only a few pages
long, but all have a crystal-clear central concept, robust characters,
effortlessly natural dialogue, and a clever twist or hook at the end.
So go ahead; open Pandora's box! Me, I'm looking for her
earlier anthology, Winter Shadows and Other Tales, and eagerly
awaiting her next collection.