From indie publishers, Paper Road Press, we have the first in what will be, hopefully, a series of anthologies: Shortcuts: Track 1. This installment offers up a collection of fine speculative fiction from a selection of New Zealand authors. The tales are diverse and engaging, long enough to immerse and engage the reader, but short enough to devour in a single sitting.
We begin with ‘Landfall’ by Tim Jones, a chilling near-future tale. New Zealand has become a distant haven for refugees escaping a world altered by climate change. However, it is not, truly, a haven, for the beaches are patrolled, and outsiders − and those who aid them − are greeted with guns and hostility. Nasimul is one such refugee, fleeing his homeland of Bangladesh. Donna is a soldier, trained to hunt and kill, but there is compassion amongst the cruelty.
This is followed by the somewhat more fanciful, ‘Bree’s Dinosaur’ by AC Buchanan. Deformed banana cake, a science project, a family secret and a meteorite, all converge into an explosive conclusion.
Grant Stone’s ‘The Last’ is a more haunting, fantastical tale, with folklorish elements. The narrator, Rachel, is a reporter − one of the last true rock reporters − sent into the countryside to interview the enigmatic Katherine St. John, singer and songwriter. But there is more to the woods than meet the eye, as Rachel is soon to find out.
Lee Murray and Piper Mejia have teamed together to bring us ‘Mika’. Mika is from Aotearoa, has set out on a mighty journey in her waka (a far-evolved descendant of the traditional canoes) to New York, seeking the cure for the disease that is ravaging her family. What she finds, instead, is a conspiracy, an unlikely ally and a child with a dark past and an even darker future.
Probably my favourite in this collection is ‘Pocket Wife’ by I K Paterson-Harkness. It introduces strange future-tech: miniature replicas of a person that acts as a sort of surrogate for the person, allowing them to see, hear and feel everything that the doll feels. Our narrator may be away on business, but his wife is watching him, through the eyes of her Tiny. When the replica malfunctions, we are thrown into a darkly humorous comedy of errors.
The final tale, ‘The Ghost of Matter’ by Octavia Cade features Ernest Rutherford − but not entirely as we remember him.
Overall, Shortcuts is a fine and entertaining collection, offering a bit of everything: chilling dystopia, nifty future-tech, a harrowing journey, and much, much more. I look forward to seeing what else the authors, and Paper Road Press, have to offer.
Reviewed by Angela Oliver
Shortcuts: Track 1
Edited by Marie Hodgkinson
Published by Paper Road Press