Eric Brown: Blue Shifting

This is Eric Brown's second collection of short stories. Like the first, while most of the material had appeared before in various magazines and anthologies, there are a couple of new stories in the collection.

Unlike the first collection, which was full of real gems, this collection disappoints. The main problem is the incessant repetition of the same themes. How many stories would you like to read about the death of sexually ambiguous artists of the future that involve gadgets that record, erase and restore memories and personalities? One was fine in Brown's first collection but this book is stuffed to the gills.

Those stories are OK in themselves and if you encountered them at a rate of one every two years in your favourite SF magazine you would put up with it but together in one collection they are too much.

That is a shame because "Song of Summer" and "Blue Shifting", the two new stories are well worth reading and the collection would have been better with more variety in the stories. "Song of Summer" is a beautiful story about a man returning to the scene of his childhood and making a surprising discovery about the girl who was his first love. "Blue Shifting" is a story about a man who is mysteriously transported to a new city every day at five in the morning. He is trying to work out how to deal with this when he realises that he is not the only person so afflicted.

If you are new to Eric Brown's short stories I would recommend his first collection "The Timelapsed Man" over this as it is much better.

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My rating

Six out of ten. A very mixed bunch.
Detailed Contents

The Death of Cassandra Quebec
An artist returns to Earth to visit the site of the death of Cassandra Quebec, her gay lover whose death, assumed to be a bizarre accident, was captured on an emotion recording crystal by Quebec's husband. The story unfolds in a series of flash backs and revelations assisted by technology selectively to erase and restore memory. The artist discovers that her lover was in fact murdered her jealous husband who then went on to make career out of mutilating other women in the name of art. The artist then has an affair with her dead lovers daughter who the goes on to murder her father. There is also a semi telepathic Pterodactyl involved too. I'm afraid that it is too full of plot twists and coincidence to be convincing. 5/10

Another story about an artist wishing to sign off a career with an example of death wish fulfilment art. This time, the artist is a man with a guilt complex. The guilt arises from the death of his wife in childbirth and the fact that he later raped his daughter who then ran off to the stars and was apparently killed. He hires a pilot to reanimate a spare copy of his daughter's body which he keeps around the house. But who is the mysterious pilot and why is a big fish trying to kill him? The concept is interesting but the characters just do not seem convincing. 5/10

The Art of Acceptance
Eric Brown's first ever story included an Engineman and a private investigation agency. In this story, a retired Engineman working as a private eye gets a big commission for one last job as an Engineman working for a clone. 6/10

The Disciples of Apollo
A man, alone for his whole life is diagnosed with an incurable and fatal sickness. Taking refuge in a sanatorium for his final weeks, he finally finds love with a fellow sufferer. It is borderline SF but a good read nonetheless. 6/10

Elegy Perpetuum
Another of Eric Brown's stories about artists of the future. This time, an artist maintains that an important work of art is more important than a human life. He is subsequently tricked into destroying his latest masterpiece in order to save the life of the daughter that he adores. I've read enough of these and I will not buy this author's work in the future if he doesn't let it drop. 3/10

Song of Summer A man returns to the scene of his childhood and of his first love. It triggers memories of the girl whom he wanted to follow when she left Earth but he then made a terrible discovery about the real reason why their relationship was doomed. It's a fine tale and a refreshingly new slant to boot. 8/10

Epsilon Dreams
The wife of a rich surgeon dies and he records her personality in wait of a body. In the mean time, his daughter's gay lover falls ill and cannot afford the cost of a cure. The surgeon steps in with an offer. He treats his daughter's lover on condition that he is allowed to implant his wife's personality into the body for three days out of six. Then, he wife starts plotting to get more time for herself.6/10

Blue Shifting
One day, at five in the morning, a man starts to emit blue light and then, is suddenly transported to a different city. The same thing happens each day after that and, after a while, he becomes used to the idea. Then he meets three other people who are experiencing the same phenomenon. They stick together and start to try to work out what is going on. 7/10