This post is part of a blog tour organised by Random Things Blog Tours. I received a free copy of the book in return for an honest review.
‘Promise collects Christi Nogle’s best futuristic stories ranging from plausible tech-based science fiction to science fantasy stories about aliens in our midst: chameleonic foils hover in the skies, you can order a headset to speak and dream with your dog, and your devices sometimes connect not just to the web but to the underworld.
‘These tales will recall the stories of Ray Bradbury, television programs such as Black Mirror and The Twilight Zone, and novels such as Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin or Under the Skin by Michel Faber.
‘They are often strange and dreadful but veer towards themes of hope, potential, promise.’
The stories in Promise, by Christi Nogle, span science fiction and science fantasy, exploring subjects such as aliens, androids, the future of work and creativity, and the potential negative consequences of bending time and defying death.
They range in length from just a couple of pages to around 30, and contain a lot of interesting ideas that made me go ‘I wish I’d thought of that!’. It was exciting, and often surprising, to see where Nogle took each premise.
While technological innovation drives the plots, something that especially jumped out at me was how human these stories are.
People continue to put their loved ones first, accustom themselves to the new and strange while paying more attention to their everyday and personal lives, rebel, find ways to take advantage of others, and be drawn to creative pursuits. My favourite question, ‘where does human end and android begin?’ crops up in a few stories.
Many of the stories focus on how relationships – frequently parent-child, but also with other family members, spouses, and pets – could play out amid technological advancements and unusual events.
I was most impressed by the stories where people lose one another, whether that’s through death or something else. These – along with tales that are tinged with sadness for other reasons – give this collection a distinctly poignant vibe, which I loved.
Some of my favourite stories here (Paper Dragonfly, Paper Mountain; The Laffun Head, Guesthouse) question whether preserving people’s consciousness in jars, computers, or other conducive objects is truly beneficial to them or their loved ones. In others (An Account; Cubby), time travel complicates close relationships.
My absolute favourite in the collection, though, was Flexible Off-Time, where the innovation is a virtual reality you can inhabit for what feels like a couple of weeks, but is a day for every minute in real time. The main character uses the facility to write a biography of her elderly father without leaving him for too long, but things don’t go according to plan.
As well as finding this story highly inventive, well thought-through, trippy, scary, and sad, I loved its mini-examination of what makes a biography. The character initially drafts a straightforward account of her father’s life, then improves it by adding her own thoughts and memories, but eventually over-eggs the pudding as her “subjective time” away stretches on and on and she keeps writing.
Similarly, Fables of the Future, as well as the title story, appealed to me because in them, characters are given time and space to try to create something, albeit in unconventional circumstances. Maybe I need a writing retreat myself… I don’t think I’ll be utilising Flexible Off-Time’s services though, somehow!
Promise is a creative, poignant, and very human science fiction and science fantasy collection.