Around the Dark Dial

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I remember reading Ray Bradbury as a kid and being totally captivated. That rush of immediate childish wonder – of starry nights and worlds out there to be discovered – and lurking in the sidelines, the terror of the unknown, the darkly magical, and just what could be out there, waiting.

The same Bradbury-infused mood, harkening back to the flip-flopping of fear and awe the newness of technology and space travel inspired in the fifties and sixties, permeates this terrific anthology of eleven speculative/science fiction stories. The technology focused on in this collection mainly concerns AI – and man’s attempts to control, harness, dominate or destroy that which we do not understand. The author smoothly draws parallels into AI’s inevitable overlap with alien intelligence, and the possibilities raised by other worlds populated by fiercely capable alien creatures who, in a heartbeat – could welcome or annihilate us.

The stories are loosely bound by these fascinating themes, as well as the broader question of communication – how do we, (will we, can we) reach out and connect with other intelligences (alien, artificial, and in one of my very favorite stories, every-day animals, who are surprisingly and oh so charmingly, articulate) , and if we could just put aside our fear, what common bonds, including the emotive, are to be found? Or, as may be more likely, what are we clearly on a trajectory to mess up entirely?

An offshoot theme, and certainly a timely one, concerns “fake news”, and other forms of coercive and distorted “scientific” communication gone wild. The world expressed by the author is not only truly disturbing, but sadly, not all that improbable.

I loved these stories, losing myself entirely to a wonderfully nostalgic journey into imagined worlds where science and magic both chill and inspire.

A big thank you to the author for an ARC of this book. All thoughts presented are my own.


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