Man Against the Future
By Bryan Young
Man Against The Future is a collection of short stories by Bryan Young, author of “Lost at the Con”.
I love short story collections, not just because I have the attention span of a small yapping dog, but they can be a great introduction to a new author or genre. They can be quite hit and miss though as it's not the easiest style to write in...
The book itself is not billed as a sci-fi/fantasy collection, but does say that it is a collection that brings together [Bryan Young's] "dark visions of the future, the past, and worlds never seen"; from this you do expect it to have a certain sci-fi/fantasy slant.
The collection starts off with a not very well thought-out sci-fi story called "The Hope of Humanity" where the world is in chaos and their solution is to send their best scientific minds into the future in a space ship..for some reason. It doesn't work as a concept, the science he uses is just plain wrong and the ending is confusing.
There are much better stories within the book though such as "Bot Four"; a nicely written short (though light on plot) about a very human reaction to living in a world dominated by robots, which has the potential to be drawn out into a longer story.
Bryan does introduce some very nice concepts in the collection. I particularly liked the ideas behind "A badge and a gun", "A simple country murder" and "Late term abortion" which takes social issues to their extreme in dystopian futures and they are quite well written.
"Convention sketches" leaves you completely mystified as to why it was included at all. The main character loses a comic and a young boy fails to impress a girl. It is neither science fiction nor fantasy and doesn't really fit with the other stories.
This is a problem with the collection; though most are sci-fi or fantasy a few are neither and you do begin to wonder if there is a theme to the book at all. This does take away from some of the well written stories and the collection would have been better coming out in a number of volumes each dedicated to sci-fi, fantasy, etc
Two stories in particular stand out as being completely different to the others; "The train from Hell to Heaven" and "The flights of Angels". These are stories with a strongly religious theme; one concerning Hitler being forgiven by God for his sins and the other about a young boy meeting his parents in Heaven. Stories like these don’t really work within a collection which also contains a son bludgeoning his zombified mother and sister to death with a blunt hatchet (“Hatchet”).
If you've read his novel "Lost at the Con" and liked it then I would recommend this book, otherwise there are much better sci-fi or fantasy collections out there.
Written on 9th July 2011 by Mozley Hayes.