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A Very British History: The Best Science Fiction Stories of Paul McAuley, 1985 – 2011

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Selected by the author from his output across a quarter of a century, this landmark collection contains the very finest science fiction stories by one of Britain's foremost masters of the genre. From sharply satirical alternate histories to explorations of the outer edges of biotechnology, from tales of extravagant far futures to visions of transformative challenges of dee Selected by the author from his output across a quarter of a century, this landmark collection contains the very finest science fiction stories by one of Britain's foremost masters of the genre. From sharply satirical alternate histories to explorations of the outer edges of biotechnology, from tales of extravagant far futures to visions of transformative challenges of deep space, the showcase the reach and restless intelligence of a writer Publishers Weekly has praised as being 'one of the field's finest practitioners.' Stories include: 'Little Ilya and Spider and Box' 'The Temporary King' 'Cross Road Blues' 'Gene Wars' 'Prison Blues' 'Children of the Revolution' 'Recording Angel' 'Second Skin' 'All Tomorrow's Parties' '17' 'Sea Change, With Monsters' 'How We Lost the Moon, A True Story by Frank W. Allen' 'A Very British History' 'The Two Dicks' 'Meat' 'Rocket Boy' 'The Thought War' 'City of the Dead' 'Little Lost Robot' 'Shadow Life' 'The Choice' 'Searching for Van Gogh at the End of the World' 'Karl and the Ogre'


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Selected by the author from his output across a quarter of a century, this landmark collection contains the very finest science fiction stories by one of Britain's foremost masters of the genre. From sharply satirical alternate histories to explorations of the outer edges of biotechnology, from tales of extravagant far futures to visions of transformative challenges of dee Selected by the author from his output across a quarter of a century, this landmark collection contains the very finest science fiction stories by one of Britain's foremost masters of the genre. From sharply satirical alternate histories to explorations of the outer edges of biotechnology, from tales of extravagant far futures to visions of transformative challenges of deep space, the showcase the reach and restless intelligence of a writer Publishers Weekly has praised as being 'one of the field's finest practitioners.' Stories include: 'Little Ilya and Spider and Box' 'The Temporary King' 'Cross Road Blues' 'Gene Wars' 'Prison Blues' 'Children of the Revolution' 'Recording Angel' 'Second Skin' 'All Tomorrow's Parties' '17' 'Sea Change, With Monsters' 'How We Lost the Moon, A True Story by Frank W. Allen' 'A Very British History' 'The Two Dicks' 'Meat' 'Rocket Boy' 'The Thought War' 'City of the Dead' 'Little Lost Robot' 'Shadow Life' 'The Choice' 'Searching for Van Gogh at the End of the World' 'Karl and the Ogre'

30 review for A Very British History: The Best Science Fiction Stories of Paul McAuley, 1985 – 2011

  1. 4 out of 5

    Karl

    This is copy 119 of 200 signed numbered copies signed by Paul McAuley. DELUXE EDITION— 200 numbered copies signed by Paul McAuley and including a 34 page chapbook containing three additional stories. This edition comes in a slipcase with full colour artwork by Jim Burns. The hardcover chapbook contains the stories: 03 - Searching For Van Gogh at the End of the World 15 - Karl and the Ogre 29 - My Secret Superpower 33 - Story Notes

  2. 4 out of 5

    William

    A very mixed bag, with some true gems. Overall, 4 Stars. As usual with my reviews, please first read the publisher’s blurb/summary of the book. Thank you. There are some very fine old stories here, showing the cool prescience of a young master. Quite wonderful. Best stories, titles in bold Little Ilya and Spider and Box - 3.5 Stars Cute but insubstantial. A series would be nice. The Temporary King - 3 Stars A man comes from to a small village, but he's both more and less than he seems. Cross Road B A very mixed bag, with some true gems. Overall, 4 Stars. As usual with my reviews, please first read the publisher’s blurb/summary of the book. Thank you. There are some very fine old stories here, showing the cool prescience of a young master. Quite wonderful. Best stories, titles in bold Little Ilya and Spider and Box - 3.5 Stars Cute but insubstantial. A series would be nice. The Temporary King - 3 Stars A man comes from to a small village, but he's both more and less than he seems. Cross Road Blues - 4 Stars How the blues and time-travel made America great Gene Wars - 3 Stars slight but cute Prison Dreams - 4 Stars Written almost 30 years ago, the unrestricted brilliance of McAuley's imagination and skills shine clearly here. I wish it were longer. Quote: She screwed down the thermos top, put the culture in the bottom of the icebox: fembots grew best, with fewest spontaneous somatic mutations, in the dense molecular architecture of water at 4 degrees Celsius. ‘I love these machines,’ Darlajane B said. ‘All my family from arthritis have suffered; I have little workers in my joints, burning away calcification as fast as it forms. So I can still sit zazen, I can still plug in chips.’ She unrolled a surgical kit, set a microsurgery scaffolding over the doll’s face. A set of miniature thumb-operated waldoes peeled back the doll’s eyelids, inserted something that looked like a little spade between eye and socket. Humming some old rock tune, Darlajane began to detach the serial connections between the doll’s chips and the interface with its brain, rerouting them through a temporary bridge. Children of the Revolution - 4.5 Stars Reading this from a young Paul takes me back, 30 years ago or more, to the days of hip, electric, cutting edge sci-fi. Makes me feel young again. Wonderful. Quote: Saint Jack’s eyes were focussed on infinity; his mouth lifted in an ecstatic smile that transfigured his hollow-cheeked, stubbly face. He said in his slow, gentle voice, ‘You know how it was, way back when in Africa? Tribes of man-apes ate these mushrooms that grew in the shit of antelopes and buffalo. They got smarter to deal with the visions, and they needed to share the visions, too, so they invented language. Language is the mind’s only reality, and so our reality is produced by language. Recording Angel - 3.5 Stars sad and familiar in many ways, overlong Second Skin - 5 Stars short but terrific All Tomorrow’s Parties - 4 Stars Somehow familiar, and somehow sad Quote: ‘You confuse the true and the real,’ someone said. A man’s voice, soft, lisping. She looked around but could not see who amongst the amazing people and creatures might have said such a thing, the truest, realest thing she had heard for . . . how long? She could not remember how long. 17 - 4 Stars up, up and out! Sea Change, With Monsters - 4 Stars one from McAuley's extraordinary The Quiet War series How We Lost the Moon, A True Story by Frank W. Allen - 4 Stars fun and clever A Very British History - 3 Stars Brits first to capture Penemunde, go on to rule space Quote: After the revolution, some of the rebels, including William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, chose to return to Earth, but this wasn’t, as Sir Bill claims, a split in our ranks, merely a natural shake-down amongst a bunch of highly creative and mostly anarchic individuals. Many others, including Ken Kesey, Allen Ginsberg, Neil Cassady, Tom Hayden and Noam Chomsky,... The Two Dicks - 3 Stars not really my thing Meat - 3.5 Stars Short, cute, gory Rocket Boy - 4 Stars A familiar story of a young homeless boy on a dystopian world given an incredible gift: A thinking gun with an advanced AI, and how it changes his life in search of power. Very nicely pres Ned, a delicious read. The Thought War - 3 Stars Slight, silly, but with a reference to "Boltzman Brains" (they are a real thing, Google it) Shocking Quote: Anyway, St Pancras Old Church was one of the oldest sites of Christian worship in Europe. There had been a church there, in one form or another, for one and a half thousand years; and although the railway lines to St Pancras station ran hard by its north side it was an isolated and slightly spooky place, full of history and romance. Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was buried there, and it was at her graveside that her daughter, who later wrote Frankenstein, first confessed her love to the poet Shelley, and he to her. In his first career as an architect’s assistant, the novelist Thomas Hardy supervised the removal of bodies when the railway was run through part of the churchyard, and set some of the displaced gravestones around an ash tree that was later named after him. City of the Dead - 5 Stars Jackaroo universe, clever, a very satisfying ending Little Lost Robot - 4 Stars dystopian and sad Shadow Life - 2.5 Stars More like a sketch of a story, but with possibilities. The Choice - 5 Stars a wonderful almost-fable set in the near future, Jackaroo somewhat Paul McAuley Full size image here .

  3. 4 out of 5

    John Day

    An exceptional collection of stories by one of the masters. Should be published by a major American publisher in order to reach a wider audience.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin

    A large collection of stories. A few stand outs: "Little Ilya and Spider and Box" Sad, but intriguing. A dangerous world, with a young girl struggling to survive. Emotional. "All Tomorrow's Parties" A very old woman struggles to find a reason to go on, in an endless life. Twist at the end. "Sea Change, With Monsters" A world full of engineered monsters from a war, and a woman who hunts them. But some monsters are human, and far more dangerous... A large collection of stories. A few stand outs: "Little Ilya and Spider and Box" Sad, but intriguing. A dangerous world, with a young girl struggling to survive. Emotional. "All Tomorrow's Parties" A very old woman struggles to find a reason to go on, in an endless life. Twist at the end. "Sea Change, With Monsters" A world full of engineered monsters from a war, and a woman who hunts them. But some monsters are human, and far more dangerous...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Metaphorosis

    2.5 stars, Metaphorosis Reviews Summary A collection of stories by British SFF author Paul McAuley. Review One of my pet peeves is the number of non-US artists who write or sing about US settings. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that; the US has a lot of good and interesting things about it. But German pop artists singing about the US just feels odd. Why not sing about Germany? The same goes for authors – why is so much SFF set in the US? Is the market really so sensitive that stories set in t 2.5 stars, Metaphorosis Reviews Summary A collection of stories by British SFF author Paul McAuley. Review One of my pet peeves is the number of non-US artists who write or sing about US settings. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that; the US has a lot of good and interesting things about it. But German pop artists singing about the US just feels odd. Why not sing about Germany? The same goes for authors – why is so much SFF set in the US? Is the market really so sensitive that stories set in the British Midlands or Agra just won’t sell? I doubt it. Given the title of this collection, I expected A Very British History to break the pattern. Instead, much to my surprise, it’s not very British, and a fairly high percentage of the stories have American settings. While there are Britain-based stories here, including the title story, I just don’t see why McAuley felt his stories could only work in a US setting. It’s one thing when writing about Robert Johnson, but why should a story about future haves and have-nots be based on the US West Coast rather than Wales? I suppose it bothers me in part because it’s disappointing. Reading is travel, and this guide took me to many places I’ve already been. That quibble aside, the stories here are interesting, if not particularly exciting. I know McAuley primarily from his late-90s Book of Confluence series, but haven’t found his other work as convincing. On the plus side, these stories tend toward the contemplative style I find appealing. One the minus side, a number of them are also slow and somewhat muddled. A large number are also set in McAuley’s Quiet War universe – a setting I knew little about, but that most stories provided plenty of context for. There were a number of strong stories, but none that struck me as really exceptional. A few fairly weak ones as well, unfortunately. Two weeks after finishing the collection, I had trouble remembering many of them. Among the best stories: "Prison Dreams" "Recording Angel" "17" "Sea Change, With Monsters" "City of the Dead" Overall, a collection for fans, not casual readers.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    Many short story collections, science fiction or otherwise, contain both hits and misses. In the better ones, the former outnumber the latter. This is certainly the case with A Very British History; but what makes this collection stand out, for me, is as much nature of the misses as the quality of the hits. There were several stories here that weren't really my thing, such as the time-travel/alternate history of "Cross Road Blues" and the dance-club tech noir of "Children of the Revolution", but Many short story collections, science fiction or otherwise, contain both hits and misses. In the better ones, the former outnumber the latter. This is certainly the case with A Very British History; but what makes this collection stand out, for me, is as much nature of the misses as the quality of the hits. There were several stories here that weren't really my thing, such as the time-travel/alternate history of "Cross Road Blues" and the dance-club tech noir of "Children of the Revolution", but none that I actively disliked. OK, maybe "The Two Dicks". The rest, though, was excellent. Offering action and adventure ("Sea Change, With Monsters", "City of the Dead", "The Choice"), brutality ("Prison Dreams"), the dangers of super-technology on scales both human ("Rocket Boy") and galactic ("Little Lost Robot"), scientific snapshots ("Gene Wars", "Shadow Life") and dashes of wit and satire ("Meat", "How We Lost the Moon...", "Searching for Van Gogh..."), there is a huge variety of story-telling, high-quality writing, great worldbuilding, and a host of provocative ideas here. I wasn't familiar with McAuley's work before coming across a recommendation for this book on Twitter; now I shall be seeking out his longer fiction eagerly.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Florian Holzner

    A really, really nice overview of the authors work. I really enjoyed his Quiet War series, and returning to this universe was quite a treat. I guess that I will have to explore a few of his other stories as well now.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Hakan

    Very good collection of stories in Paul McAuley's unhurried, detailed style. Love it. Very good collection of stories in Paul McAuley's unhurried, detailed style. Love it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mark Smith

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chris Harris

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tim Clark

  12. 4 out of 5

    MR ROB LENCHNER

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mr Graeme Brown

  14. 5 out of 5

    Richard Taylor

  15. 5 out of 5

    Steven Rowland Goddard

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ewan

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jean

  18. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jared Cardon

  20. 4 out of 5

    Luke

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  22. 4 out of 5

    Herman Chelette

  23. 5 out of 5

    Scott

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ariel Ledesma Becerra

  25. 5 out of 5

    Roland's Library

  26. 5 out of 5

    Darren

  27. 5 out of 5

    Samuel P Harrison

  28. 4 out of 5

    Terry Adams

  29. 5 out of 5

    C Jones

  30. 4 out of 5

    Aimi Breedt

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