Jason Sanford‘s newest anthology, Never Never Stories, contains the most original speculative fiction that I’ve ever read. The ten stories, some of them previously published, were selected as the crème de la crème of his collection; and they explore themes and questions common throughout truly great science fiction. What does it mean to be human? Do we control our own destiny? How does memory define us, and can science and magic coexist?
The first story, The Ships Like Clouds, Risen by Their Rain, describes ships that rain earth and water upon a continually shifting landscape. The world’s inhabitants fear each next great storm. Amid this chaos, the tragedy of the world’s inhabitants is told.
The next tale, When Thorns Are The Tips Of Trees, tells of a world where people never touch and loved ones are transformed into lovely silver trees. Sanford beautifully unfolds a touching story about love, loss, and the need to let go.
Here We Are, Falling Through Shadows had me gripping my sheets, fearing the darkness. Yet this was another story of loss – but with a sinister twist, filled with action, terror, and pathos.
Rumspringa asks us, through the eyes of its Amish characters, what it means to be truly human. The main character struggles to reconcile the technology of the future with his own identity as a person.
Millisent Ka Plays in Realtime describes a musical love story that reshapes the future in a fiefdom far, far away.
Memoria explores humanity’s search for meaning, God, and the main character’s quest for redemption from his past. Horrors await us among the many Earths in the multiverse.
In Peacemaker, Peacemaker, Little Bo Peep, a policewoman and a serial killer must band together to escape a town’s horrific vision of peace.
Into the Depths of Illuminated Seas introduces the reader to a young woman whose body is a canvas for the names of all destined to die at sea. With courage and strength, she dares to discover if she is the pawn of fate or its master.
A Twenty-First Century Fairy Love Story is exactly what it says. In a modern setting, an ancient fairy loses the love of his life and searches for another. The beauty of this story brought tears to my eyes.
Finally, The Never Never Wizard of Apalachicola tells the reader, through the eyes of an orphan, about a clash between science and magic – with an unexpected twist.
Most of the stories begin with a sentence that makes no apparent sense until several paragraphs (or pages) into the tale. However, the strength of the characters and compelling plots swiftly draw the reader into Sanford’s web. As I read, almost every story elicited strong emotions from me – curiosity, anger, sadness, and relief. Several times I wept tears of sorrow or joy.
This anthology would be perfect for any fans of science fiction – especially genre tales that explore deeper themes. There’s love and loss, tragedy and joy, and a sense of adventure in every story. If you haven’t already bought this book, you’ve waited too long. That’s how good it is.