cover image The Art of Space Travel and Other Stories

The Art of Space Travel and Other Stories

Nina Allan. Titan, $15.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-78909-175-5

These 14 narration-heavy shorts from Allan (The Dollmaker) find ordinary people grappling with speculative situations both familiar and inventive. “Microcosmos” is a story of survival in inhospitable environments; “The Gift of Angels: An Introduction” probes the sacrifices of long-term spaceflight; “Marielena” hinges on time travel; and “Flying in the Face of God” delivers gruesome body horror. Some stories, including “Four Abstracts” and “The Science of Chance,” cast doubt on the veracity of the speculative element, while others, like “Fairy Skulls,” present it as incontrovertible fact. “A Princess of Mars: Svetlana Belkina and Tarkovsky’s Lost Movie Aelita,” meanwhile, takes the form of an interview and doubles as a love letter to Russian science-fiction. Isolation emerges as a recurring theme, exemplified in the heroine of “Neptune’s Trident” as she slogs through life after society’s collapse, and the protagonist of the title story as she searches for her father. Allan’s character-driven, tangent-and-aside–laden style won’t be for everyone, but her consistency is such that anyone who enjoys one of these stories will likely enjoy them all. (Sept.)