Saturday, 4 February 2017

Review: Forbiden Thoughts

It's been almost a month since I first read the anthology of short stories titled Forbidden Thought. I've been meaning to write a review of it as soon as I finished reading it, but I found it difficult at first, not really knowing how to tackle the whole topic. In many ways, I am grateful for that. Had I written about it immediately, all I could say about the book is that the quality of the stories varies, some are entertaining, some not so much. But when I think of it now, that would be a gross understatement, and rather unfair conclusion on my part. Thus I am grateful for the delay after which I am finally writing this review.

The stories range in length, theme, and scope. There is some poetry, and some essays, but most of them are short stories, and really good at that. Some are very small-scale, dealing with the life of one character, while others span the universe, space and time, and even across space and time. The common theme through all of them is to simply take an established idea of our time, and run it to its logical conclusion in order to see what happens then. And it is that kind of courage I missed for some time from the contemporary Science Fiction. As Kant put it, Sapere aude! To dare to think, to dare step forward and proclaim the emperor has no clothes. And that simple mission this anthology accomplished without a fault.

I enjoyed most of the stories, some like Nick Cole's opener Safe Space Suit are great satires, while others like At the Edge of Detachment by A.M. Freeman were sincerly thought provoking. Some were downright mischievous like Vox Day's Amazon Gambit, while others like David Hallquist's The Social Construct were grave both in tone and touch. I found myself deeply moved by the story of Jane Lebak titled The World Ablaze, while the Test of the Prophet by L. Jagi Lamplighter was just mindblowing. And there are many more like Brian Niemeier's Elegy for the Locust that tackles the topic of appeasment in a brilliant manner, or Joshua M. Young's The Secret History of the World Gone By that examines a fallen civilization that doesn't even realise it's doom. My single gripe with the anthology is that Larry Correia did not write about politically correct monster hunting. I guess we can't have it all. Some other time then...

What surprised me the most was the nuance of the stories in the anthology. I came to call it a difference between loud and silent stories. The first are with you from the get-go. You read them, you grasp the idea behind them, and you move on thinking about it ever so often. But it is the quiet ones that over a month I still kept pondering on, thinking about them and ruminating until I reached a satisfying conclusion. The stories in question, truly do reflect the title of the anthology. The way how John C. Wright takes the reader on a philosophical journey across space and time in By His Cockle Hat and Staff, or how there is a silent promise of hope in Hymns of the Mothers by Brad R. Torgersen. I don't know how to convey this. It isn't that those stories that are obvious from the get-go are better or worse from those who are more subtle. It's the combination of the two, that makes the whole entity harmonious as a result. It is a nuance that makes you appreciate the beauty of these stories.

That alone is well worth the price of purchase.

You can find the Forbidden Thoughts on Amazon.

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