NON-PARALLEL UNIVERSES by Bud Sparhawk. Fantastic books (www.FantasticBooks.biz), 2017, 267 pp., $14.99. ISBN 13: 978-1-5154-1020-1. Click here to purchase
I was expecting to open up NON-PARALLEL UNIVERSES and read stodgy prose from an author who derives his living in academia or government and who makes an appearance every once in a while in publish-or-perish ANALOG or some such place. So I was pleasantly surprised to actually enjoy the work of Sparhawk, who writes some amazing stories.
I liked these:
“Astronomic Distance/Geologic Time.” Sparhawk sends us on a journey as far as distance and time can stretch, with strange and mind-bending commonalities, a story about a boy, his puppy and a happy family. Oh, it also includes galaxy-traversing exploration ships that are sent on multimillenial-long missions to the outer edges of the universe, say 10 billion lightyears or so. And how the multiple layered eras of time and change on our own planet will reveal eras of civilizations arriving, thriving and decaying. The story itself makes you realize how small, trivial and possibly soon-to-be-forgotten our own era will be.
“The Suit.” A Dallas, Texas office professional lives in the truly realized internet of things, where there is intelligence and data-gathering everywhere and in everything: clothing, appliances and electronic devices. In this age, data is amassed about literally everything, and Siri-like AI devices communicate a bit too much to him. The Siri-like communication gets even worse when his gadgets try to process information on the stunning woman he meets, Viola. Where are the filters and suppressors in a too-connected world?
“The Snack.” In a way, this story continues the narrative of “The Suit.” In this instance, the internet of things includes the many health monitors embedded in clothing and appliances. The IoTs dog us about our not-so-healthy lifestyle choices. In this story, one man simply wants to eat a donut without being harassed by the devices.
“The Old Man’s Best.” A “beer-in-space” tale involves a Jupiter space station occupied by two would-be brew masters trying to come up with ale for their nostalgic, beer-deprived minds. They are trying to keep their little exo-Terran enterprise secret.
“True Friends.” Soldiers in a war with aliens, on a barren planet, find stray dogs and befriend them. But could the animals be “plants” from the enemy?
“Ten Winks to Forever.” An interstellar traveler realizes how much the worlds he has known, and the people in them, age with faster-than-light travel. The traveler escapes a bad marriage, only to find, in his “winks” or cross-time travels, that he will forever be hopping away from the terrible and almost incomprehensible changes in the known universe.
“Deceleration.” The enormity of space and vast interstellar distances figure center-stage in a tale of an anomaly discovered hundreds of years in earth’s past, traveling toward earth. Will it spell opportunity, or merely a catastrophe, for civilization when it finally arrives?
“Slider.” A father’s aspirations for his son as a professional baseball major-league pitcher may have to be modified, perhaps severely, on the way to the son’s stardom.
“Footprints in the Snow.” A crash-landed alien race, the Tsuanit, are given affordable -- in other words, government-paid -- housing, much to the chagrin of a widowed neighbor. He gets to know the Tsuanit neighbors, even though he hates the fact the government gave them free housing. The neighbor learns they are steps above ordinary mortals in their actual – well – humanity.