Silver Wind reviewed in Interzone

Posted: November 21, 2011 by douglasthompson in Reviews


Paul Kincaid has reviewed Nina Allan’s The Silver Wind in the lastest edition of Interzone (No.237), and seems to really appreciate how the five stories lock together and become something greater than the sum of their parts, tending to the theory that this book is really a novel more than it is a collection. Paul writes:

” …Individually, there is one overtly science fictional story, and three others that are, to all intents and purposes, mainstream except for a subtle temporal quirk that perhaps shifts them towards the fantastic. But collectively, taking account of the interconnections and resonances that run between them, it is impossible to read this book as other than science fiction. That delicacy of tone, that subtlety of intent, is what makes this such an arresting volume…

…Time is an old standby in science fiction, of course, but what is interesting about Allan’s use of the theme is that it is not time as a dimension that is being explored, but the more common or garden mystery that we all experience every day, what we measure when we look at our wristwatches and yet what cannot be measured.

Only one of the stories, “The Silver Wind’, uses time in an overtly science fictional manner. It is an alternate history, in this case Martin is a salesman in a run-down, dystopian England, its characteristics sketched in briefly but effectively. In this world Circus Man is Andrew Owens, who makes devices that really can control time, and by chance Martin finds himself transposed into an England that more closely resembles our own. In this new world he goes regularly to Paddington Station where, he is confident, he will one day run into Andrew Owens again. This is significant, because in the next story, ‘Rewind’, Martin is an estate agent in a contemporary England who takes his new girlfriend to Hastings looking into memories of his childhood there (a childhood that recalls aspects of the first two stories without precisely matching them). Here he encounters Owens, ‘this little circus freak who had somehow learned to stop the clock, or turn it back’, and Owens mentions their meeting at Paddington, which Martin no longer recalls. It is this reference, late in the last story, that somehow turns a collection of linked stories into a novel: that makes the dissonances and dislocations between the various versions of Martin’s life so telling.

These are good stories, but their sum is far greater than their individual parts.”

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