A strange and engaging collection of short stories.
In “The Monster in Winter,” a writer gets the notion to take “notorious murderer” Edward Hyde, of Jekyll and Hyde infamy, on tour. The plan is for Hyde to talk of and perhaps re-enact some of his horrible deeds. “The Mummy’s Bitter and Melancholy Exile” opens with a mummy being invited to speak on the radio in 1934, a long way from the stone deathbed in Egypt that is his comfort zone. Lock’s stories stir time as though it were a soup where any of the ingredients might contact any other. Do time and space even matter? A train’s brakeman has no idea where his train is going or if it will go on forever. Another train briefly appears alongside, carrying seemingly contented commuters from another dimension; soon, it turns away and disappears into the horizon. An ordinary middle-age man is transformed into a collection of sentient atoms, muons, leptons and the like. He can merge with other bodies, read other minds. He can climb onto a computer’s motherboard and ride an electronic rail into the vast Internet and back again, since this is the digital age, and he is all data. Each of the 16 stories has a similar feel, even those in which the narrator has not literally gone to pieces. They are gems, rich in imagination and language. Readers will happily suspend disbelief, perhaps even finding particles of humor with the Museum of Steam’s bottled steam that “rose, unbidden…with indecent intent with regard to a woman’s knickers.” And beyond the entertainment lie 21st-century conundrums: What really exists? Are we each, ultimately, alone and lonely? Where is technology taking humankind?
For all their convolutions of space and time, these stories are remarkably easy to follow and savor.