Borderline juvenilia. Introduction by author dismisses the collection ab initio
as “illustrative of typical problems in entry-level fiction” (4). Explains that “when we speak of ‘seriousness’ in fiction ultimately we are talking about an attitude toward death” (5) which I regard as probably philistine. Nevertheless, author suggests “one of the reasons that fantasy and science fiction appeal so much to younger readers is that, when the space and time have been altered to allow characters to travel easily anywhere through the continuum and thus escape physical dangers and timepiece inevitabilities, mortality is so seldom an issue” (id.), which is definitely philistine. Introduction otherwise has thoughtful comments on entropy, author’s influences, and the nifty comment that his reading allowed “World War I in my imagination to assume the shape of that attractive nuisance so dear to adolescent minds, the apocalyptic showdown” (18).
Principal text is five short fictions, all generally haunted by the spectre of the Korean civil war (expressly at 44, 61, 172, and implicitly in the others, it seems)
First short is a military man down on the bayou. Second involves a dude whose wife kicks him out of the house. Third, “Entropy,” seems to be well-regarded, presents a soiree that host-protagonist wants to stop “from deteriorating into total chaos” (97). Fourth is fin de siecle espionage thriller of orientalist interest, but we should read it in the context of the cold war. It’s presented as asymptotic to World War I: “Britain wanted no part of France in the Nile Valley. M. Declasse, Foreign Minister of a newly formed French cabinet, would as soon go to war as not if there were any trouble when the two detachments met. As meet, everyone realized by now, they would. Kitchener had been instructed not to take any offensive and to avoid all provocation. Russia would support France in case of war, while England had a temporary rapprochement with Germany, which of course meant Italy and Austria as well” (106). But: “All he asked was that eventually there be a war. Not just a small incidental skirmish in the race to carve up Africa, but one pip-pip, jolly ho, up-goes-the-balloon Armageddon for Europe” (107). Finale of volume is the longest bit, involves a pack of rotters and race politics.
Recommended for readers in varying stages of abomination, persons in so much rapture over the mongrel gods of Egypt, and those who’d fled the eclipse then falling over Europe and their own hardly real shadow-states sometime back in the middle Thirties.