Book notes: Ian Sales and Simona Sparaco

Ian Sales, Adrift on the Sea of Rains (2012)

Colonel Vance Peterson and colleagues are stranded on their moon base, trying to find a way home. Well, not ‘home’ exactly, because the Earth they knew has been destroyed in nuclear war. Rather, the crew of Falcon Base are using a piece of mysterious Nazi technology to reveal alternate versions of Earth from branching points in history, in the hope that one will be hospitable – and that they’ll be able to travel there.

What I knew in advance about Ian Sales’ fiction was that he was interested in combining a literary approach with proper hard science; I think he’s pulled that off in this novella. He gives a sense of the technicalities of space travel and life on Falcon Base (part of the alternate Apollo program sketched out in the book’s extensive glossary), as well as evoking the desolation and psychological effects of being isolated as Peterson’s crew are.

Most interestingly for me, Sales plays the literary and scientific idioms against each other. The accoutrements of living in space stand for restriction (for example, anger is not so easily expressed when you’re in low gravity and can walk only as well as Velcro slippers allow), but those technical terms also represent the astronauts’ comfort zone, the sphere where they know what they’re doing – and this is what ultimately turns against them. Sales has three more novellas planned in his ‘Apollo Quartet’ – I look forward to seeing where they head.

Simona Sparaco, About Time (2010/2)
Translated from the Italian by Howard Curtis

Svevo Romano would seem to have it all, for a given value of ‘all’ – looks, money, career success, the pick of attractive women to string along or use for one night stands. It may not be commendable behaviour, but it suits Svevo just fine, thank you very much. And then he starts to experience mysterious jumps in time: he’ll miss important work meetings when a couple of hours pass in a moment; or his sleep will be disrupted when morning comes too early. Svevo addresses his story to Father Time, as he tries to find a way out of this spiral.

About Time is an amiable morality tale that works neatly at the metaphorical level as well as the literal – think of Svevo as letting his playboy lifestyle get out of hand, and the effects are much the same as if time really is speeding up for him. But I can’t escape the feeling that it’s all a bit too simplistic – that the characterisation of Svevo veers too close to caricature, and that the moral provided by the solution to Svevo’s predicament feels too obvious . I would be interested in reading more of Simona Sparaco’s work, but About Time is a little too unambiguous for my taste.

1 Comment

  1. I was not thrilled with the ending of “Adrift..” Combined with the alternate history and the weird science, it made for an odd effect in what otherwise was a rather Hard Sci Fi type novel.

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