Review: Speculations by Stephen Faulkner

Scientists in Georgia, USA, are testing a machine to provide a ‘doorway’ to parallel universes. Amazingly, they find one first time, but the people in the other cosmos warn them to close their doorway immediately because of the danger of the ‘Devil Bird’ (providing the story title), which is capable of eating large animals, and even humans, whole, traversing to Earth. The denouement is hilarious, and at the same time challenges many of our own assumptions about other worlds.

The Devil Bird is the first of an anthology of fourteen stories, which began with the author asking the question ‘What if…’ We are talking speculative fiction here. Of course, a wonderful tale like ‘The Devil Bird’ is a hard act to follow, but all the stories in Speculations are inventive and plausible, by which I mean the speculative elements – which included machines, time travel, dystopian future, benign intervention from a sort of heaven – were well thought through. This author invites the reader to wonder, with him, about machines, other universes and time travel, with characters taking a second-place. Some of the yarns are sexually explicit – very sexually explicit – but without demeaning either gender.

Other stories I particularly enjoyed were Demonspeak, another quest to find extra-terrestrials which results in the characters (amateurs this time) directing their machine at the devil and The Guardian’s Intervention concerning a wife suffering a snoring husband. (A problem in particular need of speculative help!)

I don’t read speculative fiction as a general rule but it was good to visit a different genre.

(By the way, I am awaiting permission to use the cover art for this book. I will insert an image when I have one.)

Published 2021 by Bridge House Publishing, Manchester. (Scroll a long way down.)

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