EVIL WATER by Ian Watson


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Another eclectic collection, comprising ten stories, 1984-87, from the prolific and often surprising Watson (Sunstroke, 1984; Slow Birds, 1986), whose yams have always proved more satisfying than his imaginative but feebly inconclusive novels. ""Cold Light,"" one of the longer entries, concerns a bishop preoccupied with the history of lighting who finds his body occupied by a parasitical, supernal being--the ironic side-effect is blindness. The supernatural theme continues in the title piece, a tingling tale of witchcraft and horror in modern suburbia, and in ""The Wire Around the War,"" an ingenious ""deal with the devil"" variant. Comedy is represented in the rather prickly humor of ""The Great Atlantic Swimming Race,"" the truly hilarious ""On the Dream Channel Panel"" (commercials for yummy future foods crop up in people's dreams), and the black-comic postnuclear tale, ""When Idaho Dived."" ""The People on the Precipice"" appears to be a dark metaphor for survival in impossibly constricted conditions. And the more specifically science fictional items are perhaps even more powerful, from the disturbing, sinuous aliens/sex/interstellar travel yarn, ""When the Timegate Failed,"" to the striking and brilliant ""Windows,"" Martian artifacts (or growths?) that may be some sort of alien communication/transport mechanism. Polished, assured work, thoughtful and impressive in a way that Watson's collapsible novels never are.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Victor Gollancz--dist. by David & Charles