- Paperback: 268 pages
- Publisher: NewCon Press (11 July 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1910935190
- ISBN-13: 978-1910935194
- Product Dimensions: 14.8 x 1.5 x 21 cm
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,876,884 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Now We Are Ten Paperback – 11 Jul 2016
- Choose from over 13,000 locations across the UK
- Prime members get unlimited deliveries at no additional cost
- Find your preferred location and add it to your address book
- Dispatch to this address when you check out
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
NewCon Press / 268 pgs / £12.99 paperback / ISBN 978-1910935194
Reviewed by Carol Goodwin
This anthology was released in July this year and (as implied in its subtitle) was issued to celebrate the 10th anniversary of NewCon Press. In the harsh world of independent press companies, to successfully survive for 10 years is a rare achievement. Indeed, NewCon Press has not only survived but has received many awards for the quality of the fiction it has published.
Whilst many anthologies contain mostly collected stories which have been previously published elsewhere (with a few new stories as an enticement) all the stories in this book have been specifically written for this volume. Anyone familiar with the British SF/Fantasy field will recognise many of the authors in this collection, such as Peter F Hamilton, Jaine Fenn, Eric Brown and Ian McDonald etc although it also includes excellent stories by some less recognised but quality writers.
The anthology includes both SF and Fantasy stories with a loose theme of 10, which leaves plenty of room for significant variety between the stories. In my opinion, this is one of its strengths as too restrictive or narrow a theme can result in too many similar stories which can leave a reader dissatisfied. This is most definitely not the case here.
The first story, “The Final Path” by Genevieve Cogman is an enjoyable story where adults trying to shield their children from dangers outside their walls fail to see the seductive menace infiltrating via the children’s computer games. Whilst not wholly convinced of its plausibility, I did like the structure and the role-playing games (RPG) elements.
“Women’s Christmas” by Ian McDonald is a wonderful observational piece about five sisters who meet up every Epiphany (or Women’s Christmas which apparently is a real festival) and consider their aunt who emigrated to the moon and has financed them all. In a short story it covers a lot about the gulf (both physical and emotional) between those who leave and those who stay behind and this emotional content gives it true heart.
“Pyramid” by Nancy Kress takes a little while to get into but it repays patience as the reader slowly realises it is a very clever allegory about writing, in particular SF/Fantasy. Identifying the references and metaphors in this story was a large part of its appeal to me and will be to many readers.
“Liberty Bird” by Jaine Fenn is ostensibly about privileged families racing space yachts for prestige, but also addresses multiple issues such as duty versus desire, having the courage to defy society’s expectations and the hope for change.
“Zanzara Island” by Rachel Armstrong is set in a near-future polluted Venice and has themes related to biotechnology. However, I found it confusing and hard to follow the narrative or discern the “message” of the story.
Eric Brown is one of my all-time favourite writers and in contrast to the last story, I was thoroughly entertained by his story, “Ten Sisters”. It concerns clones raised as spare parts for a rich businesswoman but they have their own ideas about that! It is clever, witty and amusing and has a plot consistent with the personalities of the participants.
“Licorice” by Jack Skillingstead has an unreliable narrator, so that the reader is never quite sure whether the protagonist could be a creator of universes or merely mentally ill and deluded. Unreliable narrator stories are not my favourite type of story and whilst competent, this story left me not particularly concerned about the reality or otherwise of the conclusion.
“How to Grow Silence from Seed” by Tricia Sullivan is a complex story which I think will really divide readers. It is a story which brims with ideas, which some people will love, but it throws the reader in at the deep end with little explanation and the constant new and hard to follow concepts can distract from following the central narrative. Although it didn’t quite work for me, I would not be surprised to see it as a great favourite of other readers.
“The Time Travellers’ Ball” by Rose Biggins is a story in 10 words only. With so little room for manoeuvre, it is very much to the author’s credit that she writes a very clever and amusing little story.
“Dress Rehearsal” by Adrian Tchaikovsky tells of a theatre company which travels across dimensions and the perils in an extra tenth performance. It is nicely plotted and atmospheric, where the reader knows that something is not right but the reveal is nicely concealed.
“The Tenth Man” by Bryony Pierce is another competent story, which reminded me of old magazine stories. There is a “mad scientist” locked up in an asylum who may have multiple personality disorder or be possessed by personalities from different universes. Whilst a little predictable, it was still amusing.
“Rare as a Harpy’s Tear” by Neil Williamson is a fantasy story told in 10 tears. Based on Arabian mythology, I really loved the use of language and vocabulary in this story. There is a very effective slow build-up of information and emotion and the reader really sympathises with the aching sadness of the “monster” in the story.
“Utopia+10” by J A Christy was about a man’s urge to provide food in a polluted world but was one that I just did not find particularly entertaining.
The next two stories “Ten Love Songs to Change the World” by Peter F Hamilton and “Ten Days” by Nina Allan both deal with time travel. I like the concept of the first story where certain people can only travel back mentally so it is their conversations/ideas that can change the past. The second is more traditional, where a woman tries to travel back in time to save a woman wrongly hanged for murder. It is a well-written story but did not hook me particularly on an emotional level.
The final story in the collection is “Front Row Seat to the End of the World” by E J Swift. I am a fan of E J Swift’s Osiris Project trilogy and here again she shows her excellent writing skills. When there are only ten days till the certain destruction of the Earth, in the tradition of Nevil Shute’s ON THE BEACH it expertly observes how ordinary people might react and focuses on whether a mother can heal the rift with her estranged daughter.
In summary, this is an outstanding collection of stories. There are some superb stories which I fully expect to see on award lists and whilst not everything is to my personal taste, (nor do I ever expect it to be in an anthology) there is a much higher than normal percentage of stories of first-rate quality. Its diverse range is a major strength and provides a splendid introduction if needed to some skilled contemporary SF/Fantasy authors. CG
(Review copy kindly donated by NewCon Press)
From the publisher:
Sixteen original stories of science fiction and wonder from sixteen talented authors, written to celebrate the tenth birthday of NewCon Press
1. Introduction by Ian Whates
2. The Final Path – Genevieve Cogman
3. Women’s Christmas – Ian McDonald
4. Pyramid – Nancy Kress
5. Liberty Bird – Jaine Fenn
6. Zanzara Island – Rachel Armstrong
7. Ten Sisters – Eric Brown
8. Licorice – Jack Skillingstead
9. The Time Travellers’ Ball – Rose Biggin
10. Dress Rehearsal – Adrian Tchaikovsky
11. The Tenth Man – Bryony Pearce
12. Rare As A Harpy’s Tear – Neil Williamson
13. How to Grow Silence from Seed – Tricia Sullivan
14. Utopia +10 – JA Christy
15. Ten Love Songs to Change the World – Peter F Hamilton
16. Ten Days – Nina Allan
17. Front Row Seat to the End of the World – EJ Swift
I’m familiar with almost all of the authors here, though have only read works by five of them in the past, and have been meaning to get to at least another handful of them. The main draw for me were new short stories by Peter F Hamilton and Eric Brown, two of my favourite authors, while I was also particularly interested in reading the offerings from Adrian Tchaikovsky, Nancy Kress, Nina Allan, and EJ Swift.
Now We Are Ten uses a simple theme for its stories: the number ten. Each one uses this in one way or another, some obviously, others in a more subtle manner. However, with such a wide variety on offer, and not really knowing what type of story each author has penned, I approached each with a mix of trepidation and eagerness, hoping that regardless of author it would be one I’d enjoy. While this was generally the case, it wasn’t always so, and is expected with any collection there were very big hits, but also just as big misses.
Following a nice introduction by Ian Whates explaining a little about the press and collection, we get to see just what is on offer. While Cogman’s dystopian story The Final Path is enjoyable enough – though I wasn’t sure about the ending – Macdonald’s Women’s Christmas was very short, and rather odd – not one for me. From there are two great stories: Kress’ Pyramid, a meta story that comes into its own once you connect the dots, and Fenn’s Liberty Bird, an SF space race with deeper musings on sexuality in a difficult society. Armstrong’s Zanzara Island was another miss for me, I just didn’t get what it was trying to do.
Brown’s Ten Sisters was a story I was particularly looking forward to, and it didn’t disappoint. An interesting tale with cloning at its centre, and one that managed to entertain and enthral throughout. Skillingstead’s Licorice uses a very unreliable narrator that fails to fully get the story across effectively, ultimately falling flat come the end. Meanwhile, Sullivan’s How to Grow Silence from Seed was surprisingly deep given its length, but again not a story that I particularly enjoyed. Next there’s a completely different and entirely effective entry: The Time Traveller’s Ball, a ten word story by Rose Biggin.
I’ve only read one novel by Tchaikovsky before – the excellent Children of Time – so I was eager to read his story, Dress Rehearsal, and what a story it is. Following a travelling theatre company that only ever puts on nine shows during each run, this was clever and engrossing with a wonderful twist at the end. Pearce’s The Tenth Man is another great addition, looking at parallel universes through multiple personalities. Unfortunately Williamson’s Rare As A Harpy’s Tear wasn’t clear at all, and one I found hard to finish despite its short length. Christy’s Utopia +10 was easily readable, though not particularly interesting given lack of detail, which was a shame.
Despite ups and downs throughout, Now We Are Ten finishes on a high note with its last three stories. Hamilton’s Ten Love Songs to Change the World is unlike anything he’s written before, but in a good way: contemporary, yet with a definite SF flavour. Allan’s Ten Days is the longest in the anthology, and one that seems to have an old murder-mystery at its heart until the pieces of the puzzle come together, delivering a satisfying ending. And finally we have Swift’s Front Row Seat to the End of the World, another great story that has a personal focus from the narrator and her regrets in life – particularly her estrangement from her daughter – as an Earth killing asteroid draws ever closer.
The question of whether Now We Are Ten is a success is easily answered: yes. Each story, no matter my personal preference, fit the theme perfectly. I found some stories missed the mark in their delivery, others perhaps a touch too obscure for their own good. Ultimately, the better stories balance the collection out nicely, with particular stand-outs coming from Brown, Tchaikovsky, Pearce, and Swift. Now We Are Ten is another reminder that short fiction has a special place in SF&F, and it’s a length that I read way too little of.