4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Fables from the Fountain (Paperback)
This is an intriguing book, a collection of short SF stories written as a tribute to Arthur C Clarke's Tales from the White Hart which I have to confess I haven't read (yet). The set up is good - a bunch of academics and SF writers get together every Tuesday night in the eponymous Fountain, a traditional pub in Holborn, London (one story is told in a similar Edinburgh setting), that's oddly difficult to find, and swap stories. There is a varied cast of fictional storytellers, overlapping fuzzily with the real SF authors who wrote each tale, and it's left pleasingly unclear whether the "I" who narrates most of the stories (ie as the listener who hears the tales) is the same person or whether, as the storyteller of the week rotates, so does the "listener".
The book contains stories by Ian Whates, Stephen Baxter ("Transients" - my personal favourite, with a thought provoking account of alien life), Ian Watson, Paul Graham Raven, James Lovegrove, Neil Gaiman, Colin Bruce, Charles Stross, Liz Williams, Eric Brown, Steve Longworth ("The Cyberseeds" - probably the funniest, with a punning payoff that you may see coming but which nevertheless is just so right) Henry Gee, Andy West, David Langford, Andrew J Wilson, Peter Crowther, Tom Hunter and Adam Roberts.
As with most collections of this sort, it would be invidious to comment on the qualities of individual stories since their approach and content vary so widely. They are all fairly short, puns and word play abound, and I think everyone will find something here to like. For me, they were all of a good standard: if I was forced to rate them individually I'd have said there were one or two ***, most **** and a couple of *****. The only feature that detracted slightly, perhaps, was the layering - A tells a story in the Fountain that was recounted to her by B who was describing something that happened to C. But that's inevitable in this sort of "framed" collection, indeed overall I think the "framing" adds so much to the atmosphere of the collection that a little confusion in who is telling what story isn't a big problem.
A good way to sample these authors' work if you hadn't already.