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PROBABLY MAYBE PERHAPS by TERRY MARTIN

PB, 276 pages, Murky Depths

http://www.murkydepths.com/pmp.php

I’ll start with a confession.  I’m not the biggest fan of short stories.  I prefer chowing down on a big fat novel, or even a big fat series of novels.  But the very best short stories have the power to snatch the breath from your throat and brand themselves on your memory.  A novel is an embrace, a well crafted short story is a punch in the gut, a knife to the heart.  It’s a tough thing to get right, and any collection of short stories is, by its very nature, going to be somewhat uneven in tone.

So “Probably Maybe Perhaps”, the debut collection from Murky Depths head honcho, convention stalwart and ukulele player Terry Martin, was an enjoyable surprise.  All the stories are SF, most of them set in the near-future, with a strong running theme of humans and aliens forced to live side-by-side, (“Harp”, “Green”) integrating into a world that, while recognisably our own, is at the same time subtly altered.

On the whole, the short-shorts work better than the longer fare here, notably creepy opener “The Feast”, which will have you looking at crows with new and nervous eyes, and “Anguish”, not strictly SF, but a portrayal of a breakdown which is horrific in its very mundanity.  Of the longer stories here two notable highlights are the touching “The Shed”, and “Variants” a tale of genetic mutants on the run in an England transformed into a wildlife preserve.  It’s one of the longest stories in the collection, but still felt like a smaller fragment of a greater tale, one that Martin could easily expand into a novel should he want to in the future.

There are a few minor errors in the text, which are slightly irritating but don’t detract from enjoying the stories, and a couple of the longer stories meander a little before getting to the point, but on the whole it’s a strong, solid, enjoyable collection from an author and publisher who has previously hidden his talents behind those he has chosen to publish.  It’s good to see him stepping into the limelight at last, and judging by the breadth of imagination shown here, there are plenty more stories to come.

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