Episodes by Christopher Priest; Water Shall Refuse Them by Lucie McKnight Hardy; The Border Keeper by Kerstin Hall; Lord of Secrets by Breanna Teintze and Lost Acre by Andrew Caldecott
In a career spanning more than 50 years, Christopher Priest has published over a dozen novels at the literary end of the speculative fiction spectrum as well as several story collections. His latest, Episodes (Gollancz, £20), gathers 11 stories first published between 1972 and 2017. Whether Priest is writing violent near-future dystopias about the effect of virtual reality on society, time-slip romances or subtle political parables, a constant feature of the stories is the cool, assured quality of his prose. The first three tales are more horror than SF: a claustrophobic Lovecraft homage; a detailed study of a protagonist’s dying moments; and the powerful “The Head and the Hand”, a macabre, understated tale of a man driven to perform acts of masochism on stage. The standouts of this excellent volume include the haunting “An Infinite Summer”, in which Priest deftly recreates the manners and mores of the late Victorian era in a poignant story of a man separated from his lover by the intervention of time travellers from the future, and “Palely Loitering”, detailing a boy’s obsessive love in a far-future society, where starships and time travel contrast with an old-fashioned, almost Edwardian mood.
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