Erickson’s (Afterlife Code, 2018, etc.) collection of sci-fi stories explores parallel worlds, rogue planets, alien intervention, and more.
Primarily set in the Boston, Cambridge, and Merrimack Valley areas of Massachusetts, these tales often follow a male protagonist who finds that humans don’t understand the laws of the universe as well as they think. In “Recount Our Dreams,” widower Jack Martin is a test subject for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s REST (restricted environmental stimulation therapy) project. When an electron accelerator experiment elsewhere on campus goes awry, Jack’s deprivation chamber shunts him into numerous alternate versions of Earth, including one in which meteor collisions depopulate the planet. “Rogue Event” depicts humankind’s decades-long preparation for the passing of an enormous rogue planet through the Milky Way—an occurrence that will shatter fragile orbits and decrease the sun’s lifespan; at this point in Earth’s history, corporations fully control society—and displays of emotion are taboo. “The Gray” takes the furthest imaginative leap in its tale of Amber the Elder, “an intersex Cani hominid” who debates whether to eliminate a warring species on Terra Nova Seven, a planet that’s under observation. The stories “Neurogenesis” and “To See Behind Walls” showcase the author’s love of classic literature; the former is an homage to Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon (1966) and the latter to James Thurber’s 1939 story “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” Throughout this collection, Erickson connects his tales in surprising and delightful ways. Events in “Recount Our Dreams,” for example, seem to occur down the hall at MIT from where the developmentally challenged Robert Wright works in “Neurogenesis.” Some ideas beg for deeper exploration, such as the planet in “Rogue Event” that “is linked to our time and space, but its physical science and laws of nature are operating on another plane of existence.” Readers may also be divided on “The Gray,” in which genocide is made to seem like the least of several evils.
A speculative compilation that acknowledges humanity’s long struggle ahead.