Hannu Rajaniemi must be one of the most creative and ambitious science fiction writers in our era, and his imagination is fully displayed in the whimsical, imaginative, and often downright peculiar stories of the collection. In fact, to echo that motif, I’ll start with the last two sections, in which his experimental streak is most prominent. The first, “Snow White is Dead,” is intended to be an interactive neurofiction experience: machine learning algorithms used feedback from an electroencephalography headset to lead the reader on a subconscious choose-your-own-adventure story. The second section is a collection what Rajaniemi terms “microfiction:”each microstory must convey the bones of the plot and scene in under 140 characters. The microstory starring Imhotep Austin became a serial.
In fact, given Rajaniemi’s gift for fantastic first sentences, I suspect that many of the stories in this collection are microstories given flesh and substance. Almost all of them begin by concatenating two startling and apparently incompatible events that automatically pique the reader’s curiosity. Every single such sentence is in fact a perfect summary of events while simultaneously expressing nothing about the story’s essence.
Rajaniemi’s stories are often bewildering, catapulting the reader in the middle of an intricate world whose rules can only partially be gleaned from the story. One of the most obvious examples of this was“His Master’s Voice” (“Before the concert, we steal the master’s head.”) which is narrated by a dog. A hyperintelligent dog, I grant you, but a dog nonetheless. Rajaniemi does a wonderful job in capturing the essential dogginess of the perspective, creating a voice that muses on his master’s “god-smell” and the great triumvirate: the bowl, the Ball, and the master.
Rajaniemi combines incredible technological expertise with such a vast imagination that many of his stories leave me overwhelmed by the worlds he creates. This collection demonstrates his breadth as well, involving everything from his invention of neurofiction to his stories of algorithmic romance to his tales that invoke ancient Finnish gods. Whatever the genre or subject, Rajaniemi’s stories are guaranteed to be interesting, unique, and utterly captivating. If a science fiction author’s job is to “think of impossible things,” then I can’t imagine anyone who does it better.
Read the rest of the review, which includes coverage of every story, at BOOKANEER.
For more info on HANNU RAJANIEMI: COLLECTED FICTION, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover art by Lius Lasahido
Design by Elizabeth Story