TALES FROM THE CRYPTO-SYSTEM

Geoffrey Maloney, Author . Prime $17.95 (292p) ISBN 978-1-894815-23-9

The persistence of human nature across galaxies and over vast spans of time is not always cause for reassurance in this first collection of futuristic fables from Australian writer Maloney. More often than not, it replicates in the hothouse environments of strange new worlds the self-destructive tendencies that have plagued humankind since recorded history. The protagonist of "In the Service of the Shogarth" is a work drone who willingly puts up with indignities inflicted by alien employers in the hope that it will blaze him a shortcut to easy street. Instead, it earns him a comically nightmarish advancement from bosses who misinterpret his self-interest as dedication. "Moving with the Herd" is set on an ecologically fragile planet where a human scientist's benevolently misguided decision to intercede sets off a lethal chain reaction through its animal species. The 21 stories abound with AI doppelgängers and glimpses of technocratic fallibility that echo the speculative brilliance of Philip K. Dick and J.G. Ballard, especially in "5 Cigarettes & 2 Snakes," "The Taxi Driver" and "Keeping the Meter Running," a triptych set in an indeterminate land where a People's Democratic Revolution has given way to a bureaucracy rife with corruption and paranoia. For all their SF trappings, these stories are full of sensitively developed characters whose humanity buoys the intricate plots and weighty themes. Most have appeared only in Australian magazines, and this book should introduce them to a well-deserved wider audience. (July)

Reviewed on: 06/02/2003
Release date: 09/01/2003
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