cover image Unintended Consequences

Unintended Consequences

Alex Irvine. Subterranean Press, $40 (297pp) ISBN 978-1-931081-86-3

An agent provocateur of escapist surrealism, Irvine (A Scattering of Jades) showcases his versatility in 13 short stories ranging from whimsical fantasy to hard-edged SF. In the one tale written specifically for this collection, the entertaining ""A Peaceable Man,"" an ex-con antique dealer has the good fortune to have a magical Borzoi as his faithful canine companion. In the touching and poignant ""Agent Provocateur,"" a father and son investigate the impact that Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle has on the son's 1940 interception of a Moe Berg home run. Irvine is equally at ease speculating about the futility of endless wars (""Jimmy Guang's House of Gladmech,"" which also focuses on the importance of certain romantic attachments) as he is constructing multilayered fantastic historicals (""Akhenaten,"" his mythological Egyptian meditation on the creation of gods, and ""Vandoise and the Bone Monster,"" a rollicking Rocky Mountain ghost yarn). He returns to relationship issues in ""ChichEn Itzu,"" an astute reflection on the transformation of communication in the future, while ""The Sea Wind Offers Little Relief"" echoes Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451's concern about the preservation of literature. Irvine falters only in the slice-of-life moroseness of ""The Sands of Iwo Jima,"" the overwritten cuteness of the monkey-infested ""Down in the Fog-Shrouded City"" and the too-silly ""Tato Chip, Tato Chip, Sing Me a Song."" Most of these stories point to a bright future for an exuberant new voice in speculative fiction. (Oct. 6)FYI: ""Agent Provocateur"" appeared in 2002's Year's Best Fantasy and Science Fiction.