Escape Pod

By Mur Lafferty

Escape Pod, a novel by Mur Lafferty
Book details

I like to read a collection of short stories on occasion as they act as a wonderful palette cleanser after so many full-length tales. The authors need to be succinct with their ideas as they have 20 pages to get their point across, rather than 400. An anthology like Escape Pod can also act as a taster menu, not only for the authors contained within but also, in this case, for the podcast that the book derives from. Will Escape Pod have a good mixture that will satisfy fans of the podcast but also encourage people new listen? 

Escape Pod is not a podcast that I have heard of, but the introduction suggests that it is something that I should search out. For the past fifteen years it has produced recordings of short science fiction stories. This Escape Pod book has been created to celebrate these years and has one story for each annum. Some are tales from the podcast’s past, whilst other are new for the collection. They are all written by favoured authors of editing team Mur Lafferty and S B Divya. Each story is introduced by the editors telling us who the writer is and how they helped with the podcast. 

When I think of short science fiction stories, I always remember the brilliant work of Ray Bradbury. His tales have had a lasting impression on me decades after first reading them. The works within Escape Pod cannot quite reach these heights but there are certainly highlights within the pages. Lafferty and Divya have done an excellent job of blending the genre so you have hard science fiction in one case and then borderline urban fantasy the next. What is refreshing is that few fall into the trope of having a shock ending. These tales are not from The Twilight Zone but well thought through pieces of writing that hold up on their own. 

There are many stories that stood out for me here, but I enjoyed the juxtaposition of the comedic tales and the more political. Citizens of Elsewhen by Kameron Hurley and City of Refuge by Maurice Broaddus are the type of hard-hitting science fiction that turns a mirror onto our own world, and we realise that we don’t always like what we see. To balance this, you have A Princess of Nigh-Space by Tim Pratt or John Scalzi’s Alien Animal Encounters. These offer a lighter tone but still pack some narrative punch. 

Between these two spectrums are some other well designed and thought-provoking stories from children creating a clockwork man to a group of women defending themselves from dragons. Out of the fifteen stories on offer I enjoyed almost all of them. Even those that feel a little flat for me would appeal to those with different tastes. 

The cleverest thing that Lafferty and Divya have done with this collection of work is produce something that will appeal to many people. If I was an author asked to participate it would be a no brainer as the collection is like an introduction to each writer. I wrote more than one name down so that I could check out some of their novels later. This also bodes well for the podcast itself as the creators can spot a tight and entertaining story, no matter if it is hard science fiction of light. If Escape Pod the story collection is any indication to the quality of the work found in the podcast, it is certainly worth checking out.  

Written on 28th October 2020 by .

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