A new collection from Watson (his first since The Coming of Vertumnus
, 1994), comprising 19 typically eclectic pieces, 1995-99. In the title story, demons plan an assault on the deity by physically propelling hell toward Him! Equally striking, Hercule Poirot investigates a series of bizarre murders aboard a starship—but only for as long as the ship remains in hyperspace. A psychologist, part-nanomachine, part-software, delves into a troubled mathematician's brain. In a recasting of E.M. Forster's famous `The Machine Stops," a worldwide VR/e-mail system, rather than physical hardware, breaks down. And fantasy convention-goers battle an invasion of weasel-like beings. Elsewhere, the ideas continue to flow but the drama falters. Self-aware quantum computers figure in a sort of prototype of the novel Hard Questions
(1997). An obsessed hang-glider pilot searches for the lost "Amber Room" of the Russian tsars. Likewise fixated, a couple blindly collects worthless china knickknacks. Jesus' twin brother heads for contact with aliens. Coffins, complete with mummified alien occupants, bombard the solar system. A murdered wife returns to haunt her computer games-designer husband. Old folks, rather than dying, have their personalities loaded into a relative's brain. Time itself regresses in cycles back toward the primordial slime. A cryogenically preserved head wakes in a surreal far future. Also, less satisfyingly: urban myths, autism, vampires, pre-Homeric gods, and magic boxes.
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