Decalog 4 was the kind of project that was almost indescribable to anyone
outside of the fan community of Doctor Who, and scarcely describable to anyone
inside it: "It's a short story collection about the ancestors of one of the
Seventh Doctor's companions." OK, not exactly indescribable, but the question
that follows was inevitably, "Why her?" and the answer, I suppose, must have
been, "Why not?" The collection that followed is good--several stories are
readable, but unspectacular, a few are quite clever, and one or two are very
good indeed. Given the uneveness of other Decalogs, that's quite an achievement.
In general, I did think that the theme of the story--ancestors of Roz
Forrester--could have been a bit more developed. As it was, it kind of seemed
that the theme of the collection was "people with the last name Forrester",
instead of a coherent meta-narrative. (The previous Decalog, Consequences,
worked its meta-narrative quite well, with each story leading into the next in
subtle ways.) However, the stories themselves were good...although after reading
most of them, I had the urge to wonder how the Forrester family made it to the
30th century after most of them died horribly. :)
'Second Chances', by Alex Stewart, falls into the "readable" category--it's kind
of a cyberpunk "old standard", about a man who dies while jacked into the Net
and his computer self has to find his killer. However, it doesn't fall victim to
most of the cliches that attend that plot, and has kind of a sweet ending, so I
could deal with it. :)
"No One Goes To Halfway There", by Kate Orman, has one of the best titles of any
short stories I've read. The story itself is pretty good, too, although there's
a sort of a sense of...I dunno, been there done that. Woman sacrifices herself
heroically to save humankind, yes, seen it. :) Still quite good, though.
"Shopping For Eternity", by Gus Smith, is just strange. Really strange...it's
about a grifter who's being tapped to be a corporate messiah, and they're
following his every move, and everything he does to try to escape just leads him
back into their clutches, and...it's very strange. Not necessarily bad, but just
really, really odd.
"Heritage", by Ben Jeapes, is one of the few stories in the book that actually
ties in with one of the other stories--and hence, deserves credit for that
alone. It's about a woman on a cryogenic sleeper ship awoken by one of her own
descendants (and again, that's a pretty hoary old sci-fi plot), but again, it
does something interesting with it. Also again, it ends with the Forresters in
question biting the dust. Maybe Roz had a rare genetic disorder that compelled
"Burning Bright", by Liz Holliday, is very good so long as you ignore the fact
that it makes absolutely no sense. :) It's about people being telepathically
stimulated to riot and destroy, which is a fine start to your plot...by an
insane telepathic weather control satellite that thinks it's a god, which as far
as I'm concerned needs a lot more explication before you can just drop it in as
a plot element. :) Really well-written, but I still want to know a bit more
about what caused the weather control satellite to go insane and think it was
God before I buy the plot.
"C9H13NO3", by Peter Anghelides (that's actually chemical notation, but I don't
have the font for it) is an interesting story that probably needs to be read
twice to understand it fully. It all involves synthetic people and downloaded
memories, and didn't really drive me wild, but again, I think if I re-read it
I'd find it a lot better.
"Approximate Time of Death", by Richard Salter, is a very clever murder mystery
with a fascinating twist that I won't reveal, even here. There's a bit of a
cheat involving the twist--things that you think are happening turn out to be
just a clever narrative trick, but I can't go into further detail--but I'm
willing to forgive it because it's a very clever murder mystery.
"Secrets of the Black Planet", by Lance Parkin, reminds me a lot of
'EarthWorld', and I mean that in a good way. It's all about the ways we rewrite
history, has some horrendously good puns, and a nice twist ending. Probably the
best of the collection.
"Rescue Mission", by Paul Leonard, is dark, twisted, and strangely poetic.
Again, another story that left me questioning the longevity of the Forrester
line, but still a very good story--albeit very depressing.
"Dependence Day", by Andy Lane and Justin Richards, asks more questions than it
answers, but does serve as a sequel of sorts to 'So Vile A Sin'. Still, though,
given the way it ends, it almost seems as though it's paving the way for a
sequel. An interesting choice of final stories, and although I liked it, I'm
still not sure if I liked it. :)