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Customer Review

HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERon 9 November 2013
This is a cracking collection of short scf-fi / speculative fiction stories from 14 different authors. They're united by a common theme of 'what if?', which in this case is 'what if the worst happened?'
Tuned to a Dead Channel covers a lot of ground with widely varied interpretations of the possible dystopian future. There's some overlap between a few of the scenarios, but overall I got the impression that this collection had been carefully compiled and structured, so that each tale complimented its companions - rather than some anthologies where different writers can clash or compete, or lazy editing leads to unrewarding repetition. None of that in here!

Some of the stories are set in alternate timelines where human development has taken a weird turn. Others are in the technologically advanced, far-flung future - or in the day after tomorrow, when the planet dies choking under man-made pollution. Or where society has regressed to its feudal roots, with massive polarisation between the masters and servants.
One of my favourites takes place in Omni-Mart, where the staff are literally 'company men' through and through, who never leave the superstore and devote a lifetime of servitude to their corporate master. I also thoroughly enjoyed the (only) zombie tale which looks at the reanimated dead in an entirely different light - through the opportunistic lens of the all-powerful spin doctor. Snappy dialogue and some nastily accurate satirical swipes in that one.
Some of the themes aren't exactly new - like 'forcible retirement' at a certain age, or people depending so entirely upon technology that they become adult infants, cossetted into incapability. But although all of the stories share a gloomy outlook for the future of humanity, this collection is far from being depressing. In the great tradition of dystopian sci-fi, the action generally centres on the people who rebel, the individuals who stand up to the awfulness. One of them takes her struggle all the way to the top in A Lesson in History, which introduces the notion of the 'owl-blooded'. Brilliant.

As with any anthology there were a couple of segments which I didn't enjoy so much (I struggled to connect with Marigold Sky although it was superbly written, and The Black Reef kinda led me up the garden path and left me dangling), but on the whole these were well-crafted, imaginative and entertaining short stories. None over-stayed their welcome, and a couple were intriguing enough that I'll go looking for other fiction from those authors.

An enjoyable, accomplished and varied collection, which helped a five hour train ride pass by painlessly...
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4.1 out of 5 stars