Friday, 14 February 2014

Rare Unsigned Copy by Simon Petrie

Rare Unsigned Copy (subtitle: Tales of Rocketry, Ineptitude, and Giant Mutant Vegetables) by Simon Petrie is a large collection of (mostly) stories. By my count, there were 44 entries in the contents. Minus three things which really weren't stories (I'll leave the thrill of discovery up to you), that leaves 41 stories which I've more or less commented on individually below. Which was a lot. I enjoyed pretty much all of them, but from a practical point of view I think I'm going to instigate a policy of not attempting to comment individually on flash (or shorter) stories. What is there to say that isn't a spoiler?

That, of course, has nothing to do with my enjoyment of this book. I really did enjoying reading Rare Unsigned Copy. Many of the stories are humorous and most of them gave me something to think about, humorous or not. Some of my favourites were, in contents order, "Fomalhaut 451", which had a lovely twist,;"Podcast", which has an excellent pun in the title and an AI character I particularly liked (for reasons I won't spoil); "Running Lizard" wasn't funny at all, but was chilling in its original take on were-creatures; "Haystacks, Needles, Large Extinct Marine Reptiles" was both depressing and absolutely hilarious; "Trajectory" was very visceral, sincere and not at all funny. There were also the Gordon Mammon series of stories, spaced out in the middle of the collection. I enjoyed the continuity and the unusual crimes (and the jabs at Andromeda Spaceways, heh).

All in all, I would definitely read more Simon Petrie stories. I recommend this collection to all fans of speculative fiction. Although most of the stories were science fictional, I'd say they were pretty accessible even to people who don't usually read science fiction. (And a bunch were fantasy or somewhere in between.) Petrie doesn't shy away from exploring untapped corners of common narratives, and when he sets out to write hard science fiction, you can be sure the details are spot-on. Highly recommended.

  1. Introduction — lol
  2. The Day of the Carrot — an amusing tale of giant vegetables. I liked the choices of authors for the interspersed pseudo quotes.
  3. Fomalhaut 451 — flash fiction. Main character sent to investigate a dead habitat. Why is it empty? Where did all the people go?
  4. Bodysurfing — another flash. Odd. Body swap dealer a bit dodgy.
  5. Three-Horned Dilemma — Triceratops rampaging through your backyard. How do you deal with that?
  6. Downdraft — I wasn't in the right headspace to read this one initially, so I came back to it later. It's not a bad story, but not quite my sort of thing. I prefer my fantasy in novel form and this one was definitely a serious secondary world story. Also sad.
  7. Podcast — inadvertently stranded in an escape pod, trailing the main shop through hyperspace. Limited supplies and a broken hyperspace switch with only the pod's AI for company. A very enjoyable story. One of my favourites so far.
  8. Three-Hundred-and-Twenty-Seventh Contact, and Rising — not strictly a story per se. Or maybe it could be classed as micro fiction.
  9. Talking with Taniwha — a lovely and thoughtful hard SF story about learning to communicate with very alien aliens. I love the depth of world building and consideration that went into this one.
  10. Undergrad — a drabble
  11. Bookseller — another drabble
  12. Q-Ray — an amusing tale about galactic scavengers and their search for artefacts made by long-dead, enigmatic aliens. They get into a lot of trouble retrieving an artefact, much to my entertainment and their distress.
  13. Surrogacy — another body swap story, but one treating the subject more seriously. Swap bodies to avoid pregnancy and postnatal depression in exchange for quitting smoking for the other person. The secrecy was the most simultaneously troubling and interesting aspect.
  14. Dragonsick — flash. Would-be treasure hunters learn what dragons get up to at night.
  15. Scuttle — satirising Star Trek and exploring the possible motivations of space crabs wanting to steal the ship.
  16. Tsiligup — flash. Body swap boxing
  17. Murder on the Zenith Express — a Gordon Mammon story, the first I've read (but I know they're plural because a collection of them exists). Amusing detecting, tongue in cheek world building and was obviously originally published on Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine.
  18. Guy Walks into a Bar... (Theme and Variations) — more a collection of jokes that a story per se.
  19. Single Handed — Another Gordon Mammon story. I liked the slightly twisty mystery resolution. Although considering the title upon finishing it, it does become a little cringeworthy. I'll have to tell myself that it's really a reference to Gordon's solo detective work...
  20. Niche — Flash. Lots of moths.
  21. The Fall Guy — Gordon Mammon again. Very clever reveal. I liked it. Also a recurring character from the first Gordon Mammon story.
  22. Reverse-Phase Astrology as a Predictive Tool for Observational Astronomy — an amusing fake research paper.
  23. Sixes, Sevens — A human is granted access to an alien library but the aliens' cryptic statements do not make it easy for him.
  24. Horse of Wood — A different take on teleportation shenanigans. Put me in mind of Jump by Sean Williams, but with a different twist on improving the technology.
  25. Jack Makes a Sale — Drabble
  26. To Arms — an argument with an inventory robot. Amusing.
  27. The Ballad of P’toresk — an amusing tale of never ending planetary conquest.
  28. Running Lizard — a haunting story about a series of gruesome murders, a forensic psychologist who is also a were-creature, and her brother.
  29. Highway Patroller — Drabble.
  30. Lacerta pynbawii — another drabble, not sure I got the song reference though.
  31. Hare Redux — a shaggy dog story leading up to a particularly terrible pun.
  32. Scratched — a girl saves a mouse from hr cat. Not really speculative, which ultimately surprised me.
  33. Critical — amusing flash about unusual aliens.
  34. Haystacks, Needles, Large Extinct Marine Reptiles — a hilarious, if dark, story about time travellers trying to mitigate any changes to the past.
  35. MRE — I can't say much more than "alien invaders" without giving away the main plot, I think.
  36. Redactio ad absurdam — a collection of amusing ideas more than a story. Made me laugh out loud.
  37. The Elder — flash. A conversation between trees.
  38. Trajectory — a visceral tale of one man's mission to chase down thieves that raided his space colony. Difficult to read at times because Petrie does not skimp on the details of unpleasantness. A poignant ending.
  39. DragonBlog — the story of a dragon-slayer told in blog style. Amusing.
  40. Working Girl — drabble.
  41. Mole of Stars — short flash. Probably better if you know what a mole is (it’s a chemical term meaning 6.02 x 1023 particles), but even so, a poignant end.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: 2010, Peggy Bright Books
Series: no.
Format read: ePub
Source: Purchased from publisher's website (note that there's a day or so delay between purchase and getting the file)
Challenges: Australian Science Fiction Reading Challenge

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