Andru McIntosh, Fate & Transport

Published by Waypoint Media, 2004

Reviewed by TG Browning

As is usual with my reviews, I’ll cut to the chase for those who are actually witless enough to trust my judgment totally. Buy this book. Immediately. Read it. Slowly. Story by story with time in-between each. I say this because you are going to need time to recover from some these stories. You’ll also need that time to digest all that McIntosh implies within each story. They are, for the most part, industrial strength sparks for the reader’s imagination. I’m afraid some of them are rather dark sparks, but that’s because McIntosh’s view of modern life is bleaker than I, personally, think things are.

After reading the first story, I felt like I’d been kicked in the head. I worried that perhaps the virus my eldest daughter had graced my family with was having an effect on me, so I volunteered my youngest daughter, 15, and a discerning reader already, to read the first story so I could gauge her reaction as well. When she came out to my office and sat down, her initial response was spooky. She said and I quote, “I feel like I’ve been kicked in the chest.”

There are a total of thirteen stories in the book and they are, in order: Most of the stories roughly fall into the SF category and many could be termed cyberpunk. I got the feeling reading them that McIntosh is highly distrustful of technology while at the same time, extremely attracted to it, which in many ways typifies America’s peculiar view of science and technology as well. Unlike many of the fabled New Wave writers since the 1980’s, he appears to understand science and technology quite well. If I had to come up with something to call his work, some way to typify it, I’d say he writes with the intensity that Ellison did early in his career, without the screaming outrage Ellison favored. He seems to prefer to blindside his reader, taking one along a crowded, well-known path only to dart off into a dangerous and clear trail disappearing in some dark alley.

Not all of the stories are great, which is hardly surprising - I can’t think of a short story writer who can muster that much strength in a book. However, nearly all of them will prove interesting to most readers. McIntosh invites thought, so even if you don’t particularly agree with the direction a story is taking, you are thinking of why you feel that way. I’d say that out of the thirteen stories, a reader is likely to find six or so that will be remembered for a very long time and probably reread several times. One or two of the stories will probably invite a rather strong dislike, which means McIntosh did a good job, because he affected the reader.

I think the key term for the book is strong.

I was really impressed by “Writing You Down,” “Hard Sell,” “Bound,” “Fate and Transport,” “The Orchid Alternative,” and “The Blesséd and the Curséd.”

All of the stories are well-written from the point of view of technique. He’s learned that part of the craft well.

Fate and Transport is available in both e-book format and as a Print-on-Demand trade paperback, through Be smart and get both. If you have any method of reading an e-book while traveling, this particular one would be damn good for doing so for a couple of reasons. The first is that reading the story is only half of the value of it. The other half is sitting and thinking about the implications, about the sparks of imagination McIntosh is sure to strike in the reader’s brain.

The second is that, as I said, they tend to be strong stories that will totally absorb the reader. The kind that make a dreary trip go much, much faster.

(I expect that there will be a number of very good stories written in the future because some reader gets to thinking, considering, and ends up writing a story or two of his own, possibly in self-defense against McIntosh’s often bleak view.)

Buy the trade paperback so this guy can get some sort of reward for being as creative as he is. This is truly a case where you’re buying the future, money put up to keep some guy typing away. Think of it that way. You’re paying for the next story when you buy one.

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