Hot Best Seller

The Art of Space Travel and Other Stories

Availability: Ready to download

A mind-bending short-story collection from award-winning science fiction author Nina Allan. A collection of short stories from the award-winning author of The Rift and The Dollmaker, Nina Allan. This compilation brings together rarely seen tales spanning the vast breadth of Allan's writing career for the first time. It also includes a brand-new introduction and one never-be A mind-bending short-story collection from award-winning science fiction author Nina Allan. A collection of short stories from the award-winning author of The Rift and The Dollmaker, Nina Allan. This compilation brings together rarely seen tales spanning the vast breadth of Allan's writing career for the first time. It also includes a brand-new introduction and one never-before-published story. Locus has described Nina as 'a subversive writer... playing with both the familiar protocols of genre and with the nature of the reading experience itself.' This is a stunning collection from one of the most astute and innovative voices writing today.


Compare

A mind-bending short-story collection from award-winning science fiction author Nina Allan. A collection of short stories from the award-winning author of The Rift and The Dollmaker, Nina Allan. This compilation brings together rarely seen tales spanning the vast breadth of Allan's writing career for the first time. It also includes a brand-new introduction and one never-be A mind-bending short-story collection from award-winning science fiction author Nina Allan. A collection of short stories from the award-winning author of The Rift and The Dollmaker, Nina Allan. This compilation brings together rarely seen tales spanning the vast breadth of Allan's writing career for the first time. It also includes a brand-new introduction and one never-before-published story. Locus has described Nina as 'a subversive writer... playing with both the familiar protocols of genre and with the nature of the reading experience itself.' This is a stunning collection from one of the most astute and innovative voices writing today.

30 review for The Art of Space Travel and Other Stories

  1. 5 out of 5

    Blair

    The Art of Space Travel is an outstanding collection of short stories: some are speculative, some are not, some blur the lines, all are written in a rich and engaging style that makes each and every character feel like a fully-formed human being. That’s all anyone else really needs to know; the rest of this review is for me. There’s rarely any point in reading a book review written by someone who is obsessed with the author’s work, and like many of my Nina Allan reviews, this is going to be very The Art of Space Travel is an outstanding collection of short stories: some are speculative, some are not, some blur the lines, all are written in a rich and engaging style that makes each and every character feel like a fully-formed human being. That’s all anyone else really needs to know; the rest of this review is for me. There’s rarely any point in reading a book review written by someone who is obsessed with the author’s work, and like many of my Nina Allan reviews, this is going to be very long, and involve a lot of analysis based on her other books and stories, because I need to write this all down somewhere, and what else do I have a Goodreads account for? In her introduction, Allan discusses how she selected the stories for this career-spanning collection – mostly on instinct, and because they express themes that remain important to her as a writer. Some are linked through recurring characters, others via ideas; ‘the sense of circling a central hub of meaning’. She also writes intriguingly of ‘intended inconsistencies’, differences left in place both to provoke discussion and to invite comparisons with the subjective nature of memory – cited as a key theme for the book, along with loss, time and sense of place. Again, I can only review The Art of Space Travel from the perspective of someone who is already a fan of Allan’s work; so deeply entrenched in it, in fact, that it has become impossible to be objective. I’ve read everything of hers I’ve been able to get my hands on, and as a result I had already read every story included here with the exception of the last, which is brand new. One of the big pleasures of this collection – of seeing the stories gathered together – is being able to join the dots, to find the places where they converge and where they pull away from one another. At times, piecing together the characters, the themes, the worlds contained here made me feel like an inventor, like someone discovering truly revelatory things for the first time. It is a special thing, a real joy, to find a writer who makes you feel like that. But what’s perhaps more interesting is that virtually none of them are stories I would personally have chosen as part of a Nina Allan canon. Looking through them, and then comparing them to my own favourites, it seems The Art of Space Travel is frequently concerned with feelings – especially those that seem inexpressible, or are impossible to capture in words – whereas the stories I would choose are more plot-driven, more often thrilling or horrifying. As collections of speculative fiction go, this one is definitely on the literary end of the spectrum, quiet and thoughtful, rarely dealing in extremes – though incredibly powerful when it does. Stories I already liked, such as ‘The Art of Space Travel’ and ‘Neptune’s Trident’, I found I loved upon revisiting them; stories I had originally been unsure about, like ‘Microcosmos’ and ‘Marielena’, I had a chance to reassess, and in some cases change my mind about. The collection is ordered more or less chronologically; if you are a newcomer to Allan and want to dip into it, I would recommend reading ‘Four Abstracts’ or ‘The Art of Space Travel’ first. These stories are not only the best, but also highly representative of her approach as a writer, and if you like them you will find much to relish here. --- The book opens with three stories first published in Allan’s debut collection A Thread of Truth (2007): ‘Amethyst’, which is mainly about the friendship between two teen girls in a seaside town (but also about aliens and a pop song); ‘Heroes’, in which young Finlay finds an unexpected connection with an elderly neighbour and his racing pigeons; and ‘A Thread of Truth’, which is about doomed love, and also spiders. In both ‘Amethyst’ and ‘Heroes’, the most interesting elements of the story seem to be the least clear, the least satisfactorily resolved, but the details are so good and true that the stories are still pleasurable. It’s easy to see why ‘A Thread of Truth’ is included here: it’s irresistibly involving, and contains within it an unforgettable ghost story, but more than that it is thematically significant. It articulates so many of the things Allan’s characters grapple with: the fact of love as both an impossible thing and an essential one; fear and how it can be vanquished; choosing between a vocation and a passion; the idea of a story that has the power to echo through time, to repeat itself. Next are two more stories I first encountered in another previously published collection, this time 2013’s Microcosmos. ‘Flying in the Face of God’ is one of several Allan stories dealing with the fate of the ‘fliers’, who undertake space travel at great physical cost (a process known as ‘the Kushnev drain’). ‘Microcosmos’ is set in a world afflicted by rising temperatures and increasing drought, and follows a girl who is briefly left with a man her parents are visiting – a stranger to her – and has a disconcerting encounter. Of everything in the collection, my most dramatic turnaround in opinion happened with ‘Microcosmos’. When I first read it, I was both disturbed and confused by the character of Ballantine, and unsure what was being left unsaid. Having read it again, I’m not sure what it was that I didn’t understand, and while I still think Ballantine’s behaviour is slightly odd, I no longer find him as menacing as I clearly did at first. ‘Fairy Skulls’ (2013) is one of the lighter entries: the tale of a woman who ends up living in a house she didn’t want... and with a fairy infestation to boot. In the introduction, Allan writes about how ‘each of my short stories seems to me like an outtake from the novel it might have become’. This is often evident from the sheer amount of detail the stories seem to contain; it’s one of the things I love most about Allan’s fiction, but it can also mean there isn’t enough space to explore strands that seem potentially fascinating. In ‘Fairy Skulls’, these include Vinnie’s relationship with her eccentric aunt Jude, as well as the history of the fairies. But I really enjoyed rereading this after Allan’s most recent novel The Good Neighbours, which also features the ‘fair folk’. The next two stories were written around the same time that Allan was writing her second novel The Rift, and explore similar ideas about mysterious disappearances/appearances and the possibility of travelling through time or between realities. In ‘The Science of Chance’ (2014), set in an alternate version of Russia, a little girl appears – seemingly from nowhere – in a train station; a woman must attempt to track down the girl’s family with only an old, apparently unrelated newspaper clipping to go on. ‘Marielena’ (2014) follows an asylum seeker, Noah, who becomes reluctant friends with an elderly homeless woman named Mary. In both stories, the protagonist is led to a bizarre yet seemingly inescapable conclusion about the origins of the person they are trying to help. I was interested to see ‘Marielena’ included here because, before rereading it, if someone had forced me (e.g. at gunpoint) to pick a Nina Allan story I didn’t like, I’d probably have had to choose this. It’s the style that always throws me: its stark realist lyricism is at odds with the usual rich texture of her fiction. But it and ‘The Science of Chance’ are undoubtedly companion pieces to one another, and while I still think ‘Marielena’ is one of the weaker pieces in the book, reading the two together gave me a different perspective. ‘The Art of Space Travel’ (2016) is one of Allan’s better-known stories and was previously published as a Tor.com ebook. Emily is caught up in the hysteria surrounding the celebrity guests – two astronauts – staying at the London hotel where she works as head of housekeeping. At the same time, her interest in her father’s identity is reignited when her mother, who has dementia, lets slip a new detail. I liked this the first couple of times I read it; rereading it here, I loved it. It really ticks the boxes for a lot of things I love in a short story – vivid and interesting characters, a first-person narrative with a distinctive voice, a suggestion of something inexplicable (the mysterious book is a genius touch), speculative details that stay grounded in reality. ‘Neptune’s Trident’ (2017) takes place in a broken-down, near-future vision of society in which some, including the protagonist Caitlin’s partner, have become ‘flukes’, the victims of a strange new infection that is little understood. As with ‘The Art of Space Travel’, having a chance to revisit this made me enjoy it so much more. It contains a vivid moment of horror that is difficult to forget, made all the more effective by the scrupulous worldbuilding that surrounds it. And then we have ‘Four Abstracts’ (2017). THIS STORY; this was the first Nina Allan story I ever read, and it is the story that made me fall in love with her work. It’s about an artist, Rebecca Hathaway; it’s organised around four of her most significant pieces of art, and told by her friend Isobel in the wake of Rebecca’s death. It is, to me, a practically perfect short story. It explores friendship, art, grief and guilt, all while demonstrating a quiet, brilliant, terrifying commitment to a thread of horror via Rebecca’s claim that the women in her family are part-spider. I know now that it is a sequel of sorts to ‘A Thread of Truth’, but I didn’t know that when I first read it, and it absolutely stands alone. Always a pleasure to reread, and a masterclass in how it should be done. ‘The Common Tongue, the Present Tense, the Known’ (2016) is a sequel to ‘Microcosmos’, featuring the same protagonist, Melodie. Having revised my opinion of the earlier story, I was better able to appreciate this one. It expands on the theme of climate change introduced in ‘Microcosmos’, and depicts the older Melodie’s friendship with inscrutable scavenger Noemi. It’s moody and poetic, with the aloof tone suiting its bleak setting. I already thought of this as a sister story to ‘Neptune’s Trident’, but reading them both in the same volume, I once again found similarities that I hadn’t previously identified. ‘The Gift of Angels: an introduction’ (2018) is one of the more literary stories in Allan’s oeuvre, the gently elegiac tale of a middle-aged writer taking a trip to Paris, the city in which his parents met. When I first read the story, I was not familiar with the film La Jetée, which acts as a motif within Vincent’s narrative, images from it recurring throughout. Since then, I’ve watched it; knowing now that it’s something of a classic, I’m a bit embarrassed that I hadn’t previously heard of it, but it also strikes me as significant that I had no problem believing it was Allan’s own invention. In fact, the film fits into her body of work with eerie precision, its themes (love, fate, memory, time) matching those of this collection. ‘A Princess of Mars: Svetlana Belkina and Tarkovsky’s Lost Movie Aelita’ is a new story and, as the title suggests, it (like ‘The Gift of Angels’) is heavily influenced by film. The plot is a mixture of autofiction and cinematic mystery as the narrator digs for information about an abandoned Andrei Tarkovsky adaptation of the science fiction novel Aelita. It’s fascinating and extremely readable, a kind of essay-story, and it is, at times, delightfully difficult to figure out which parts (or characters) are real and which have been fabricated. --- I have (unsurprisingly) given considerable thought to the question of which stories I, personally, would put in a Nina Allan ‘greatest hits’ collection. ‘Four Abstracts’ would be there, of course, and some stories that would never have made it into The Art of Space Travel because they’re part of collections that are currently in print: the title story from The Silver Wind, ‘The Gateway’ and possibly ‘The Lammas Worm’ from Stardust/Ruby. From Microcosmos I would have selected ‘Orinoco’ and ‘A.H.’ (which, for what it’s worth, I think would have fit into this collection well). Then there are the uncollected stories I love: ‘Astray’ (the basis for The Rift), ‘The Muse of Copenhagen’, ‘Vivian Guppy and the Brighton Belle’, ‘Bellony’, and most of all ‘Maggots’ and ‘A Change of Scene’. The last two are honest-to-god masterpieces, but I suppose I have to grudgingly admit that they are difficult to divorce from their origins: ‘Maggots’ (probably the best horror story I’ve ever read) is part of the anthology Five Stories High, wherein all the contributions take place within the same house; ‘A Change of Scene’ is, specifically and unavoidably, a sequel to Robert Aickman’s ‘Ringing the Changes’ (and, as I’ve said a few times before, is better than the original). Still, if you are at all interested in Allan’s writing, you must read them. I received an advance review copy of The Art of Space Travel from the publisher through Edelweiss. TinyLetter | Linktree

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ola G

    6.5/10 stars My full review on my blog. I am partial to collections of short stories. I very much like the format, which for me works as a beginning of a conversation between the writer and the reader. A story comes into being as an idea: it may be not fully thought through, unpolished and raw, but it’s scintillating enough that cannot be left alone; it needs to be shown to the world and elicit a reaction. I read short stories to be intellectually challenged, however minutely or extensively. There 6.5/10 stars My full review on my blog. I am partial to collections of short stories. I very much like the format, which for me works as a beginning of a conversation between the writer and the reader. A story comes into being as an idea: it may be not fully thought through, unpolished and raw, but it’s scintillating enough that cannot be left alone; it needs to be shown to the world and elicit a reaction. I read short stories to be intellectually challenged, however minutely or extensively. There are always some good or even great stories in collections and anthologies, but sadly, the opposite is also true: rarely a collection of disparate stories can hold up an exceptionally high quality level throughout. That said, it’s the gems I hunt for among the sand, and I’m always happy to find new favorites. I confess I requested Nina Allan’s collection on a whim; I have never read anything by her and decided short stories are a good place to start. And indeed, The Art of Space Travel and Other Stories is as varied a collection as one could wish for. The stories, arranged chronologically, span about two decades and showcase both the continuity and evolution of thought, as well as a development of skill. As usual, I’ll present a short review and rating for each of the stories, and give an overall summary at the end. Amethyst 2/10 It shows moments of uneasy brilliance in creating an uncanny, uneasy mood in the most mundane of situations. But as a whole it just doesn’t work; it loses both the momentum and the emotional weight somewhere along the way and dies a quiet, undignified death before its end. Heroes 4/10 Another story about a mystery that turns out to be thoroughly mundane and uninteresting; the past or present of the characters failed to kindle my curiosity. In the end, the only engaging thing is the pigeons. Utterly forgettable, unfortunately. More of a beginning of a novel or a novella than a complete short story. A Thread of Truth 9/10 A delightful gothic tale involving spiders, arachnophobia, Kafka, and body horror, all in a quaint old English town. One of the best stories in the collection, and one of very few that actually has a well executed ending. [...] Neptune’s Trident 5/10 Initially quite interesting, with body horror elements and alien invasion. But quickly it reveals itself to be another one of the stories that seem like the beginning of something larger: it’s meandering, slow-paced, and without any leading thought, but worse than that – it has no solid ending. It’s like Allan just can’t help themself and ruin whatever she’d built with a few additional paragraphs that rob the story of meaning. Four Abstracts 3/10 I was happy with A Thread of Truth; this story, returning to the characters and chronicling their lives in a somewhat obsessive-compulsive way, actually feels like diminishing A Thread of Truth’s impact. The narrator is incredibly bitchy, and the concept of believing/disbelieving something unbelievable had been tackled much better in The Science of Chance. Once again, it seems that Allan just can’t leave a good story alone. The Common Tongue, The Present Tense, The Known 6/10 Another continuation, this time of Microcosmos. Despite some scientific flaws (sharks are coming nearer shores because their usual hunting grounds are emptying) it’s an engaging story about the dissolution of the world as we know it due to climate change. Kind of preachy and uneven, but interesting overall. The Gift of Angels 7.5/10 A bit corny, and overflowing with words (I know, weird, that’s what stories are built with, so how can there be excess, but believe me, that’s what it is) but a really good little story of lifelong bereavement, curiosity, and being marked by loss. It’s another continuation – not so much of a story as of certain threads from The Art of Space Travel – it’s in effect a diary of the man whose mother left him to go to Mars. I really like Allan’s style here, subdued and self-aware, and still quite poetic. A Princess of Mars 8.5/10 A very good story about a non-existent movie, Russian cinema, and the complexity of creating and receiving art. It reads less like a story and more like an essay, or interview, an expression on opinion, and it’s wonderfully open-ended, which is for me a proof of Allan’s growing skill. All in all, I quite enjoyed this collection. It started out unpromising, but improved – and watching the process of the author’s growth was a pleasure in itself. It ends on a good note, too, leaving a better aftertaste ;). There’s something unusual about Allan’s style, her prose can be luminous and evocative, and meditative. There’s also a lot of repetition of themes and topics, and this collection offers an insight into her obsessions: bodily transformation, the workings of memory, the impact of loss. I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    Nina Allan is best known as a writer of speculative fiction, but her stylistic references and inspirations are surprisingly varied. The Art of Space Travel is a collection of stories written over a period of about fifteen years, providing an interesting cross-section of Allan’s oeuvre for fans and newcomers alike. The title piece suggests that it is a work of science fiction. In actual fact, the references to space travel and the speculative elements are less important than the human relationship Nina Allan is best known as a writer of speculative fiction, but her stylistic references and inspirations are surprisingly varied. The Art of Space Travel is a collection of stories written over a period of about fifteen years, providing an interesting cross-section of Allan’s oeuvre for fans and newcomers alike. The title piece suggests that it is a work of science fiction. In actual fact, the references to space travel and the speculative elements are less important than the human relationships at the heart of the novella. The narrator, Emily, is a head of housekeeping at a hotel where two astronauts will be staying. Besides her work, the centre of her life is her mother, a sufferer from dementia, whom Emily cares for. As the excitement for the astronauts’ visit mounts, Emily also discovers further details about the identity of her (unknown) father. Space travel is also referenced in Flying in the Face of God which features references to “fliers”, space travellers who undergo physical transformation to enable them to travel in space. An emphasis on human relationships is evident in the earliest stories in this collection. Amethyst, a story about aliens which also deals with the friendship between two girls and Heroes is based on an unlikely but strong bond between a boy and a man who keeps homing pigeons. Other works are closer to traditional horror stories – for instance, A Thread of Truth about a “spider gene” which runs in the family of the narrator’s friend. Four Abstracts, which is also featured in this collection, is a sort of sequel, where the subject matter is addressed through a description of four artworks. Some of the stories are closer to mainstream horror and weird, although with a twist of the surreal and absurd. The Science of Chance and Marielena are based on a “timeslip” concept, whereas Fairy Skulls is a comedic description of a fairy infestation, with a romantic subplot. The most recent stories in the collection show that Allan’s preoccupations have remained surprisingly consistent, although there has been a noticeable shift towards a Sebaldian blurring of fact and fiction. In The Gift of Angels, middle-aged writer Vincent tries to come to terms with the fact that his mother left him to undertake a one-way voyage to Mars. There are plenty of allusions to the classic film La Jetée – the comments and analysis of the movie are grounded in fact, the story itself is, of course, pure fiction. Cinema once again lies at the basis of A Princess of Marsan uncategorisable story which doubles as an essay about an aborted adaptation by Andrei Tarkovsky of the Aleksey Tolstoy’s science fiction novel Aelita. This collection has a cohesive feel to it with the featured pieces having common elements and, on occasion, shared characters. At the same time, it reveals an accomplished writer’s developing style. These stories have intrigued me enough to lead me to seek out Nina Allan’s novels. This is a full list of the stories featured in this collection: Amethyst Heroes A Thread of Truth Flying in the Face of God Microcosmos Fairy Skulls The Science of Chance Marielena The Art of Space Travel Neptune’s Trident Four Abstracts The Common Tongue, the Present Tense, the Known The Gift of Angels: An Introduction A Princess of Mars: Svetlana Belkina and Tarkovsky’s Lost Movie Aelita https://endsoftheword.blogspot.com/20...

  4. 4 out of 5

    Runalong

    A collection that I could not emotionally connect with and I found the style and approach jarring and a tad dated - not for me Full review - https://www.runalongtheshelves.net/bl... A collection that I could not emotionally connect with and I found the style and approach jarring and a tad dated - not for me Full review - https://www.runalongtheshelves.net/bl...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Dan Trefethen

    This is an artful (pun intended ) book of short stories. As she has done in the past, the stories are linked by recurring characters or places. Some stories are direct precursors (“Microcosmos” being the early story of the narrator of “The Common Tongue, the Present Tense, the Known”), while others are more allusive. She calls this out explicitly in her introduction, while commenting that her recurring themes are memory, loss, time and sense of place. This is clear in her writing, where a narrat This is an artful (pun intended ) book of short stories. As she has done in the past, the stories are linked by recurring characters or places. Some stories are direct precursors (“Microcosmos” being the early story of the narrator of “The Common Tongue, the Present Tense, the Known”), while others are more allusive. She calls this out explicitly in her introduction, while commenting that her recurring themes are memory, loss, time and sense of place. This is clear in her writing, where a narrator's memories are returned to repeatedly to examine their fidelity. Also, she is very good at establishing a sense of place with a few choice sentences. Strong characters in a strongly-imagined setting make for strong stories. While most of these stories have elements of the fantastic in them, this is not really where Allan shines. Her characters and their relationships are complex, realistic, poignant. She seems to be a natural storyteller who you can trust to take you on an interesting journey, wherever it lies. In the introduction, she says that the last story “A Princess of Mars” is the direction in which she'd like to further go. It is a recounting of the film history of the Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky, overlaid with a speculation of his making a film of Aelita, a girl from Mars. This was made by another Russian director as a silent film in 1924, and there is no indication that Tarkovsky seriously considered remaking it as a feature film. Yet the story ends with an interview of the actress who was slated to play the lead role in the Tarkovsky version. This story blurs a detailed historical recounting with a speculative element where it can be difficult for the reader to determine where the history ends and the speculation begins. For instance, I had to look up the original silent film of Aelita to assure that it existed. It does. Nina Allan lives with the author Christopher Priest. Priest has used this kind of technique in his fiction, most notably in “The Separation”, blurring two versions of the history of World War II. Based on her introductory comments, it may be that Allan is interested in pursuing this kind of blurred technique further, developing a kind of fiction that leaves the reader questioning what is real and what is fiction. But then, history is a kind of fiction anyhow, isn't it?

  6. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Everything I've read by Nina Allan has been good, but not all of it has been to my taste. I feel like there are two versions of Allan; the speculative writer whose fiction is always tinged with a thread of horror, and the writer more concerned with magical suburbia, whose style feels deliberately old-fashioned, harking back to the 1950s and 1960s. In the first camp, I'd put her brilliant novels The Race and The Rift; in the second, The Dollmaker and The Silver Wind, which were undoubtedly accomp Everything I've read by Nina Allan has been good, but not all of it has been to my taste. I feel like there are two versions of Allan; the speculative writer whose fiction is always tinged with a thread of horror, and the writer more concerned with magical suburbia, whose style feels deliberately old-fashioned, harking back to the 1950s and 1960s. In the first camp, I'd put her brilliant novels The Race and The Rift; in the second, The Dollmaker and The Silver Wind, which were undoubtedly accomplished but just didn't create worlds I was interested in inhabiting; both felt too narrow and twee-archaic for me. The joy, then, of this collection of short stories, The Art of Space Travel, which spans her writing career, is that it brings together these different versions of Allan, and so has something for everyone. My favourite stories, not surprisingly, were those that had the strongest tinges of either science fiction or horror.  'Flying in the Face of God', which looks at astronauts who undergo a process known as ‘the Kushnev drain’, which wears down their bodies so they can be fit for space travel, combines elements of both, and was my joint favourite story in this collection. My other favourite was 'Four Abstracts', a wonderfully creepy story about an artist who believes her family are part-spider. I didn't read the stories in this collection in order, and only realised later that this is a kind of sequel to an earlier story, 'A Thread of Truth'; I'm pleased, however, that I came to 'Four Abstracts' first, because I felt 'A Thread of Truth' was the weaker story, spelling out too much of what had been so carefully implied in 'Four Abstracts'. And this is really the theme of this collection: the stories where Allan knows just how much to say are simply superb ('The Art of Space Travel' is another example) whereas others tell us either a bit too much ('The Science of Chance', 'Microcosmos') or, more usually, too little ('Amethyst', 'Heroes', 'Marielena'). Allan is also brilliant at invented films, novels and other works of art, to the point where I found it difficult to distinguish between real references and imaginary ones; these imaginary artworks and their creators haunt many of her stories. For me, an uneven collection, then, but one that contained some unforgettable worlds. I received a free proof copy of this collection from the publisher for review.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lexi Denee

    A huge thank you to NetGalley and Titan Books for the eARC of this amazing collection!** I absolutely adored this collection of short stories. They ranged from cute strange to effing weird, and explored themes such a space travel, shape-shifting, and climate change. I was very impressed with the cohesion of the stories despite the range of topics, and Nina Allan has a way with words. I found myself stopping multiple times to reread a sentence then jot it down in my notes. Here are a few of these q A huge thank you to NetGalley and Titan Books for the eARC of this amazing collection!** I absolutely adored this collection of short stories. They ranged from cute strange to effing weird, and explored themes such a space travel, shape-shifting, and climate change. I was very impressed with the cohesion of the stories despite the range of topics, and Nina Allan has a way with words. I found myself stopping multiple times to reread a sentence then jot it down in my notes. Here are a few of these quotes: “The problem is that no one gives much of a shit about the future until it actually happens. In the fable of the grasshopper and the ant, human beings are the most frivolous breed of grasshopper there ever was.” “…thinking how much we resent the people who happen to encounter us when we are vulnerable.” “How easily we convince ourselves that those that have nothing also have nothing to say.” I found these stories to be powerful and always love when a short story collection can make me feel all of the things. My two favorites stories were Neptune’s Trident (gave me Southern Reach Trilogy vibes from Jeff Vandermeer,) and Microcosmos which viewed the wonders of science through the eyes of a youth. This is not a book for you if you like your stories wrapped up in a neat little bow by the end. Fans of speculative fiction, scifi, and short stories that make you THINK will love this book!!

  8. 4 out of 5

    David Harris

    I am grateful to Titan Books for a free advance copy of The Art of Space Travel to consider for review. I'm always delighted to see a book by Nina Allan coming and The Art of Space Travel is a real blessing, collecting some fifteen years of her wonderful, closely examines, weird(ish) short stories. I really enjoy an authors' short story collection - it gives a glimpse into a body of their work, highlighting themes and concerns you might miss in a single story, even in a single novel. These fourte I am grateful to Titan Books for a free advance copy of The Art of Space Travel to consider for review. I'm always delighted to see a book by Nina Allan coming and The Art of Space Travel is a real blessing, collecting some fifteen years of her wonderful, closely examines, weird(ish) short stories. I really enjoy an authors' short story collection - it gives a glimpse into a body of their work, highlighting themes and concerns you might miss in a single story, even in a single novel. These fourteen stories give access to a backstage world, weaving together themes of art (music, film, painting), space travel (of course - but seen from the ground, according to those left behind), environmental collapse, encounters with the Other and alternate outcomes, sometimes dramatised by pairs of stories. So, one will read about the characters; see them off, as it were; have an opportunity to imaging what might have happened next; and then encounter them - directly or indirectly - in a later story, which gives a version of their fate, though necessarily, only one possible version of many. Amethyst is told in hindsight, the narrator recalling her childhood friend Angela from the days when they were growing up in an unnamed shabby seaside town. The town is interpreted through the lyrics of a local folk-rock group, Amethyst, who sang of a 'Moon landing down on Silas Street' - setting up the story for an investigation of Silas Street and a connection to an incident which breaks up Angela's family. This is an intriguing story, full of mood and possibility. Heroes also tells us about growing up - Fin lives in a Sheffield suburb, liminal both in being outside the ring road and also potentially subject to future development. His fragmented family are on the fringes of the story, its centre being his friend Marten, a pigeon racing enthusiast with a mysterious past dramatised by the strange contents of his house and his relationship with the outsider nicknamed 'Bismarck'. Again, there are threads of possibility here and hints of a wider picture that we're left to imagine. The idea of nestled stories within stories recurs a lot in Allan's writing (including novels) and A Thread of Truth uses the technique perfectly, following a young man, Adam, as he overcomes his fear of spiders. In so doing he meets the mysterious Jennie, who tells a ghost story in a remote house in Suffolk. That story itself is perfectly framed and teasingly vague as to its age and setting: could it refer to Jennie's forebears? To her? (A Thread of Truth, like several of stories here, also has a key moment focusing on a crack in a wall or the ground...) Flying in the Face of God is about space travel, or rather about those left behind. Anita's best friend Rachel is undergoing the preparation for space travel. It's never said outright, but it is clear this is a one way trip, or at least that any return will only be in decades or centuries. The preparation is personally transformative and hard to bear both for those taking part and their family and friends. Anita explores her feelings about it, drawing on insights from Rachel, from her own grandmother and letters and notes left by her own mother, who died when an earlier iteration of the space launch was sabotaged (something referred to elsewhere in Allan's stories, I think!) Flying in the Face of God seems to be set in a world suffering climate change - a pool outside the school Anita attended seems to have dried up in the drought - and a similar motif appears in Microcosmos where a family (mum Bella, dad Doug, daughter Melodie) are driving for hours to meet a mysterious relative. It's sweltering - forty degrees in the car - and on arrival they find Ballantine's house near a dried up lake. There is a sense of mystery and menace hanging over things - while Ballantine seems to be regarded as undesirable, they're still trying to persuade him to come back with them where it's 'safe'. Yet Bella doesn't trust Ballantine at all. It's something to do with the research he's carrying to in his remote cottage, but we never learn what that is. It's lucky she doesn't know he showed Ballantine how to use his microscope to spot the tiny creatures in a drop of water, or that he gave her a letter to pass on to Aunt Chantal... that letter hangs, a secret, in the last line of the story. We don't know if it will be delivered, or when, it's a message in a bottle, cast away to the future... I really, really loved Fairy Skulls, a nice little story in which Vinnie's girlfriend persuades her to spend her inheritance from Aunt Jude on a tumbledown cottage in the wild country south of London and then brakes up with her. Faced with no alternative, Vinnie goes ahead with the move then finds something peculiar living in the cupboard under the stairs. I liked the matter-of-fact way that Vinnie accepts and deals with her problem; the delicate balance between potential "Borrowers" style whimsy and something more menacing (those things bite!) and the hints that Auntie may have been involved in some very strange, not to say gruesome, goings on. The Science of Chance is set, like other of Allan's stories, in Russia, or perhaps I should say an ex Soviet Republic with overtones of Russia? It's an alternate timeline where the 60s went differently. There was a nuclear strike, to begin with, but also a different politics, teased but not given in detail - a mark of these stories, which often tiptoe round the big things, focusing instead on their impact on ordinary people. Here, policewoman Nellie, who's trying to identify a non-verbal and apparently lost young girl discovered at the local railway station. A very straightforward story, yet one which eventually leads to a choice between two explanations - one potentially very weird indeed, linking the story in to unnerving vistas of the potentially fantastical, the other, much less strange. And on the way Allan takes us through fascinating permutations of personalities, lives and histories - which absorb from start to finish. As so often in this book, the everyday seems to arise from something stranger, bigger, deeper rooted. Marielena has a similar atmosphere. In an unnamed English city (possibly London, but I wasn't sure), Noah, a refugee from a distant country where politics has made him unwelcome, survives amidst the cruelties of the hostile environment. It's an impoverished life - not only in financial terms but even more in the sense of being observed, resented, on sufferance, suspected - but he gets by, communing somehow with the mysterious Marielena, until the day he takes pity on an even more unfortunate person, the homeless Mary, who is being persecuted by a gang of youths. From that act comes a knowing, an understanding of wider things that places the story in a distinctly fantastical context. But Allan, having set that scene, steps back. The story ends where it ends, with us aware that there may be tremendous events coming that may concern both Mary and Marielena, but that Noah's reality stays as it is. The Art of Space Travel, after which the collection is named, perhaps echoes Flying in the Face of God, being another story where space travel is happening - or being attempted - elsewhere, but the concerns of the main protagonists are more domestic, more personal. Emily is Head of Housekeeping at the Edison Star Hotel, Heathrow, her life being lived between mother Moolie, succumbing to early onset dementia in her home nearby, and manager Benny, currently stressed by two VIP guests, astronauts from said space programme. There's a thread of conspiracy (Moolie's condition possibly having been brought on by exposure to contamination from an air accident whose investigation she was part of) but in the 2070s this is left mysterious, it's not a driver of plot leading to a revelation. Rather the personal relationships, amidst hints of wider history, are the focus of the story. Neptune's Trident takes place in a world where a series of catastrophes has been blamed on some kind of intrusion into electronic systems, leading to 'the clampdown', an attempt to take back control from whatever alien influence was lurking. It's not working, though, and as Caitlin hopes against hope that her brother Morrie, lost with his submarine, will return, she sees things slide, her friend Steph succumbing to a mysterious illness. It's an uneasy, liminal story, showing humanity teetering on the brink of something, but exactly what - I wasn't sure. Four Abstracts follows up one of the earlier stories in the book (I won't say which - it might take away the fun!) Isobel is trying to come to terms with the death of her artist friend Beck at a comparatively young age from a hereditary condition. (Women struck by disease or accident are a bit of a theme in this collection.) Exploring Beck's life and art and also, the mystery of why and how she died, Four Abstracts both draws on, and casts further light on, its partner story, giving a glimpse into a wider (and weirder) world than either alone. The Common Tongue, the Present Tense, the Known is also a partner story, following up on Microcosmos. We see Melodie as an adult, having been sent as a teenager to live with 'the Severins in Strasbourg' in the face of growing environmental catastrophe. She has only faint memories of her parents (so in a sense, we know more, from the earlier story) but is still fixated on Ballantine whose lesson with that microscope shaped her career. There are answers given here to some of the puzzles from the earlier story, but new questions arise. The Gift of Angels: an Introduction is a deliciously clever story, focussed on a writer of science fiction stories, the September Queen books, set on an itinerant space freighter. They are inspired by the fact that the writer, Vincent Colbert, is the son of the astronaut Jocelyn Tooker, mentioned in The Art of Space Travel as one of the crew on a one-way mission to Mars. That story referred in passing to the unfair judgement being cast at a mother leaving her young son behind but not to fathers doing the same, but in a sense The Gift of Angels explores precisely that gap: Vincent was brought up by his less than adequate father and The Gift seemed to me to be in many ways about that loss, that abandonment. Set in Paris where his parents met, it sees Vincent come to terms with the need to write about his mother, but there is much more there than that - like so may other stories in this book it muses on the place of art, (both Vincent's writing and the 1960s French SF film La Jetée, whose themes and history the story keeps returning to). A moving and intricate story. The final story, A Princess of Mars: Svetlana Belkina and Tarkovsky's lost movie Aelita is the newest in the collection and genuinely blurs the line between reality and fiction - narrated by an "I" who might very well be Allan herself, it exudes a deep knowledge, and skill in analysing, 20th century SF and in particularly, Soviet SF films - being focussed in particular on the history of a never-was Tarkovsky movie, Aelita. I think that's where we cross the line into fiction, signalled by a reference to the narrator being in Paris 'to promote the September King'(!) - other than that, they are seen indirectly, mainly through glimpses of a lifetime engaging with those films, starting on a dream Saturday afternoon in the 70s or 80s when the only alternative on TV was Grandstand. Nevertheless, it's an affecting portrait of a life, illuminated by insights about the place of creators and the difference between them and their art which - in dialogue with the eponymous actress - develops into a real focus for this story. I found this a really strong collection. There is a sort of thematic space allowed by fourteen stories and dozens of characters - by possibly alternate versions of the same timelines, by dialogue between different points of view, often separated by decades. It's a book that had me flipping backwards and forwards, checking ideas about how the stories were related and comparing the outlooks of the various protagonists. I'd strongly recommend.

  9. 4 out of 5

    SR Westvik

    This review contains mild spoilers for the stories Amethyst, Heroes, A Thread of Truth, and Marielena in this collection. Short story collections serve many purposes. They are catalogues of an author’s smaller opuses, or a snapshot of one era in their careers. The Art of Space Travel and Other Stories is a map, one in which the author as cartographer charts a journey that the reader is invited to follow. The stories, edited into one volume, are active participants in a larger tale exploring the This review contains mild spoilers for the stories Amethyst, Heroes, A Thread of Truth, and Marielena in this collection. Short story collections serve many purposes. They are catalogues of an author’s smaller opuses, or a snapshot of one era in their careers. The Art of Space Travel and Other Stories is a map, one in which the author as cartographer charts a journey that the reader is invited to follow. The stories, edited into one volume, are active participants in a larger tale exploring the author’s craft, and are “evaluating their relationship to a world that has changed since they were created”, as she says in her introduction. The introduction is, in and of itself, a highlight of the collection, replete with erudiae and imagery-rich ruminations on the skill and imaginative power that drives and is driven by short fiction, in particular speculative fiction. Her commentary on the place of short stories in the careers of debut writers entering the market is set to strike a chord in every creative heart that has sought to have its words heard by others. The stories themselves occupy a liminal space between the speculative and the grounded, decidedly literary palates. This does not always work in their favour, which is highlighted in their organisation. The speculative nature of the stories dips by the second piece, Heroes, and loses steam until the fourth story, Flying in the Face of God. Short stories are to be consumed as shots rather than banquets (at least in my philosophy), with the ideal collection building on itself as each tales progresses, driving home the theme of the volume by its end. On the other hand, perhaps it is this exact fact that embodies the running current of liminality that underscores each tale, and, as Allan puts it in the opening story Amethyst, helps them straddle “the gulf between the possible and the permitted”. Amethyst opens the reader to themes of blurred realities. As the character Angela’s obsession with UFO phenomena generates allusions to a connection with alien entities inaccessible to the narrator, the narrator herself is drawn into a strange space, oscillating around an aged town full of things that simultaneously do and don’t happen. Are there family troubles or even abuse in Angela’s home - or are there not? Was there in a crack in a ground in the warehouse where Angela had a seemingly cosmic encounter - and if so, why was it not there when the narrator returned again later on? The narrative cuts off at a moment that effectively hones in on this uncertainty, this uncanniness, this unexplained merging of spaces that are entangled, not to be separated or reasoned into a logical series of events. It is an effective and engaging opening, though hindered by a tendency for the narrator’s train of thought to switch tracks with no apparent narrative outcome, that ends up disorienting the reader. The semi-epistolary story Heroes reinforces the notion of blurred realities, even though the speculative elements are somewhat lacking. The setting of Raisin Terrace exists on a boundary, teetering on the edge of either continued endurance or redevelopment, neither here nor there. “‘It’s like a no-mans land,’” one of the characters is quoted as saying in an in-universe newspaper clipping. “‘If you close your eyes, you can almost hear the guns.’” Adding onto this, the chronology - which appears to the reader like smudged charcoal, imprecise yet defined - makes palpable the transitory sense of the place. Other highlights of Allan’s use of space appear in the notion of nexuses as in The Science of Chance. That said, the execution of this feature is not always up to the task. The description of the character Marten’s house in Heroes is a remarkably dry portrait of a verbal still life, full of odds and ends that ought to demonstrate a great deal about character and theme, but in the end feel closer to reportage than revelation. This is a recurring feature in all of Allan’s stories, with a reliance on stark description that often feels disconnected from the narrator’s own ruminations. Where spaces meet people, Allan expands on the uncanny with notions of incursions, a feature that occurs in the majority of the stories and creates an inbuilt sense of the half-unknown, and sometimes, the entirely foreign. A highlight of this and of the collection is Marielena, recounting the story of a refugee, his demon(s), and a time traveller. While this is not the only tale to speak of time travellers, the way the temporal displacement was juxtaposed with the spatial displacement of the refugee elevated the tale. The trauma of leaving behind one’s present - one’s time and one’s place - for somewhere unknown in the hopes that better deeds can come of leaving, only to slip down into a seemingly inescapable limbo, is made doubly poignant by combining two human stories - one in the realm of the fantastic, and one brutally true to life. It combines this with a critique of the mundane, of the structures and bureaucracy and inanity of such a purgatory. As the narrator says, “You are no-one here until you can back up your personal tragedy with the appropriate paperwork”. The open ending is agonising, but perhaps apt. We depart the narrator on the brink of a decision that is out of his control - and it is this lack of control that is, in its truest sense, the embodiment of writing in the realm of the speculative. A highlight for me was Allan’s recurrent use of hidden histories and myth, which is most effectively broadcast in A Thread of Truth. The story is deeply atmospheric, with the descriptions of the settings a departure from many of the other more straight-laced descriptions of spaces, and the stories of the protagonists intertwined with and nestled into stories and myths of lives hurt and lives changed. The protagonist’s arachnophobia is beautiful describe and unpacked. The resonant description of fear, its heat and chilliness, its prickling and its headiness, resonates. When the protagonist loses the drive for his studies, it illuminates the way fear is paralysing, the way it freezes a person, makes one want to feel, the way it occupies conscious and unconscious thought alike. Fight or flight is not constrained to a moment - it is ongoing, and when fear is ongoing, a low burning current of stress, that is where trauma grows. This is beautifully tethered to the notion of intergenerational trauma - wholly real or embellished, which is up to the reader’s own interpretation. Age and history underpin many stories in this collection, and it feeds into both the sense of transitory space and the sense of displacement that are so key to the collection. “‘There is something stealthy in their movement,’” an arachnologist is quoted as saying within the story, while describing spiders, “‘in their seeming ability to render themselves invisible…an element of the mythological that tends towards the horrific.’” When combined with the reference to M.R. James - which instantly drew up imagery of his short story The Ash Tree - the broader sense of story-as-history pervades A Thread of Truth. Allan, in her introduction, points to the primacy that craft takes in the realm of writing short stories, and so a comment must be made on the fact that very few stories, despite having engaging thematic focuses, actually give their characters a powerful sense of voice. Allan as the author has a very clear voice - her style unifies the stories. However, none of the character voices shine, with the exception of Marielena, which has a passionately written and exceptionally strong narrative voice. Most of the protagonists, however, tend to feel like vectors, vehicles for rumination rather than fully formed characters in and of themselves. There is, naturally, a limitation in the form, but the lack of voice was an insurmountable barrier for me and lessened y enjoyment of the collection as a whole. Ultimately, The Art of Space Travel and Other Stories is a collection that effectively meditates on themes of liminal space, transition, displacement, history, and the truths and untruths that are obliged to underpin all of these things. However, it is ultimately hindered by a lack of engaging narrative voices and an ineffective match between descriptions of settings and the thematic role said settings occupy. Thank you Titan Books for the ARC in exchange for an honest review!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Amy Walker - Trans-Scribe Reviews

    Before this short story collection the only work of Nina Allan that I'd read was The Silver Wind; a book that in a lot of ways felt like an anthology due to the way it was structured. Despite this only being the second book of Allan's that I'd picked up it was immediate to me very early on that this was her work, as I've found that this author has a very definitive sense of style to her work that makes it instantly recognisable as hers. The stories presented in this collection span the entirety o Before this short story collection the only work of Nina Allan that I'd read was The Silver Wind; a book that in a lot of ways felt like an anthology due to the way it was structured. Despite this only being the second book of Allan's that I'd picked up it was immediate to me very early on that this was her work, as I've found that this author has a very definitive sense of style to her work that makes it instantly recognisable as hers. The stories presented in this collection span the entirety of her career, and in the introduction to the book Allan talks about how she came to choose the pieces she did. These stories are presented in a chronological order, and it allows a unique look at how the authors work has evolved over the years. This was something that I saw myself whilst reading the book, as I found that the first two stories here were the weakest, but that once we reached the third one I found a story that was much more in the style I recognised from her other book; and this was when I began to enjoy the book even more. The first story in the book is 'Amethyst', and focuses on a friendship between two teenagers who grow up in a small town that features in a song by a popular singer. One of the two of them seems to become obsessed that part of their town was used in the song, and begins to act stranger over time; causing her friend to drift away from her. Over the course of the story questions are raised as to if strange things are happening, but we never really get a firm answer on this. Whilst this is something that Allan does a lot in her work, there was something about this particular story that failed to grab me in ways others have, and it felt very much like she was still in the process of finding her voice as an author. 'Heroes' is similar in a lot of regards. This story follows Finlay, a young boy who strikes up an unlikely friendship with an old man who raises racing pigeons. When Finlay is left to take care of the mans house and his pigeons whilst he's away racing he discovers a strange artefact inside the house. Sadly, this is never really explored in any great depth, and despite the final moments of the story hinting that something more than normal is going on it's never explained. Like 'Amethyst', this lack of clarity was a frustrating part of an otherwise engaging narrative. 'A Thread of Truth' was there the book really warmed on me, however. This story was the most unusual by being the least unusual. The other stories in the book all seemed to have a little something strange, otherworldly, or supernatural happening in them; this story, was just the story of a regular man who ended up discovering a love for spiders. The story covers his time at university, where he realises that his chosen career could be undone by his arachnophobia. He decides to try to conquer his fear, and even ends up on a spider spotting retreat; and it's here that he not only discovers that he loves spiders, but comes to discover the love of his life. This story is very normal, and other than a creepy ghost story told part way through it feels a lot like normal life. That being said, the characters were so engaging, and the narrative so well written I couldn't help but love reading it. 'Flying in the Face of God' is a story set at some point in the future, and follows a person who knows a 'flyer', a person who travels into space, though at great physical cost. The story doesn't focus on the space travel side of things, nor does it really explain who the fliers are or why this process kills them; instead, it focuses on people. The story looks at those left behind by the fliers, whose lives they have touched, and who they change because of their fates. 'Microcosmos' is set in a world where the weather seems to have changed drastically. The temperatures are higher, the water is depleted, and the sun is harsher. Much like in the previous story there's no real reason given for this, and the narrative instead follows a young girl as she travels with her family to meet a relative named Ballantine. once at his home we get vague hints at things that may have happened, and may yet come to pass, but because it's told from the perspective of a child most of it remains unclear, and it feels like we're looking in at part of a much bigger story; one that we're not meant to understand. 'Fairy Skulls' is possibly my favourite story in the book, and tells of a young woman who inherits some money from her aunt, as well as golden bracelet with what she claims are fairy skulls attached to it. After being convinced to buy a run down cottage in the countryside that she can do up the woman soon begins to suspect that fairy folk might be sneaking into her home to try and get the skulls back. This is one of the more lighthearted stories in the book, and it feels like there's a lot of hope for the future and promise of good things to come by the end. I think it also benefited by being the story that didn't hide much. It was clear that this was a story about faeries, and it allowed itself to have a lot of fun with the concept. 'The Science of Chance' was an intriguing story set in a Russia with an alternate history. Set decades after a disaster that left many people dead an investigator has to try to get to the bottom of a mystery as a young girl appears in a train station one day, mute and alone. Over the course of her investigation the woman is shocked when evidence points towards the fact that this child might have been transported forward in time from the disaster years ago. This was a fun story, and the time travel element was brilliantly incorporated. It's also one of the stories where the ambiguous nature of the ending was a definite benefit. 'Marielena' is a similar story in the sense that it deals with time travel. But like with other Allan stories it focuses on a regular person on the outside of the real story. In 'Marielena' we follow Noah, an asylum seeker trying to get by in the UK whilst waiting for his application to go through. Over the course of the story he befriends and helps a homeless woman. It's whilst going through her things that he discovers that she has identification documents listing dates in the future, leading him to wonder if she might have travelled back in time, or if her claims might be delusion. It's an interesting story, and one where I ended up wanting more so that we could find out what was going on. 'The Art of Space Travel', the story after which this collection is named, follows a young woman working in an airport hotel, a hotel where two astronauts will be staying before travelling across the world to join their team on a mission setting out to Mars. The woman is only somewhat interested in the astronauts, more concerned with her mothers failing health and her interest in discovering who her father is; but over the course of the story she begins to suspect that her father might be connected to the mission to Mars. It's an interesting story, and I loved the focus on human lives and regular wants and troubles like family. It made a point of how regular life often goes on even when world changing events are happening. 'Neptune's Trident' is a story that seems to take place in a future following some kind of disaster or upheaval, and follows Caitlin as she scavenges for things washed up on the beach to sell and trade for basics to get by. In this new world there are 'flukes', people who seem to be hosts to some kind of entities or creatures that change people over time. Over the course of the story we see very different reactions to this, from those who wish to help the flukes, to allow them to live, and those who see them as an invasion and worthy of death. It's a chilling story in places, and I loved the way it examined how different people can come to vastly different conclusions on the same topics. 'Four Abstracts' is like 'A Thread of Truth' in a lot of ways. There's not a huge amount in this story that jumps out as unusual or otherworldly; plus there's a connection to spiders once again. The story is about Rebecca, an artist who is already dead once the story begins. Through flashbacks from her friends, as well as the things her loved ones do after she goes we get an insight into this odd woman, a woman who believed herself to be cursed. It's a strangely effecting story, and one where I liked the narrative structure and the way it slowly revealed more about the characters. 'The Common Tongue, the Present Tense, the Known' is a follow up to 'Microcosmos', as we once again focus on Melanie, the protagonist of that story. The story picks up with Melanie later in life, in a world still dealing with climate change, and shows her friendship with Noemi, a scavenger. One of the things that jumped out at me about this story was that as well as being a sequel, it felt very similar to 'Neptune's Trident' in a lot of ways too, and it was clear why these three stories were all included in the book; the fact that they all share a lot of the same themes. 'The Gift of Angels: an Introduction' is another story that has a lot less science fiction elements involved, and is more of a literary piece. The story focuses on a writer who goes on holiday to Paris. The story was engaging, despite it not normally being the kind of thing that I go for, and the characters and their journeys over the course of the story were more than enough to keep me engaged to the point where I was a little sad when it came to an end. The final story in the collection is 'A Princess of Mars: Svetlana Belkina and Tarkovsky's Lost Movie Aelita'. This is actually a brand new story for this collection, never appearing anywhere else before. The story centres on an investigation into an abandonned adaptation of a science fiction story, and it feels like non-fiction in some ways. It would be easy to see it as an account from someone talking about a real film project. It was an intruging piece, and one that was interesting to leave the collection on. Whilst many of the stories in this collection feel disconnected, clearly taking place in different times, different worlds all together, there are several themes that echo across multiple stories. But the one thing that is constant throughout is the strange,and delicately beautiful way that Nina Allan writes stories. Even those that focus the most on things like space or time travel the stories never really focus on these things, instead putting people at the heart of the tales. Allan weaves the fantastical in with the common place in such subtle ways that it feels like reality intersecting with the extraordinary. I wish I was able to describe the way I feel about Allan's writing, but I think that any words I put together to do so will fail to capture the nature of it. She writes in a way that so wonderfully and obviously hers, a style and a grace that no one else would be able to mimic. These stories don't just feel like something she's written, but something she's put a little piece of her soul into. They feel like small insights into a complex and layered person. The only thing I can say is, I think everyone should at least try a Nina Allan story, that her wonderful and unique way of writing will be an experience you don't want to miss, even if it's not something you come to love. The Art of Space Travel and Other Stories is one of the more unique anthology collections I've read. It has a style all to itself, and covers a huge range of themes and genres whilst still feeling like its all part of the same whole. A truly singular reading experience.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kylie

    Content Warnings: alzheimers/memory loss, degenerative/terminal illness, arachnophobia, mild body horror. The Collection Overall: Nina Allan's The Art of Space Travel and Other Stories is a very subtle type of sci-fi that meanders through themes of art, memory, connection, global catastrophe, and what it means to be human. I find my favorite stories in this collection only just briefly brush against the sci-fi (containing only a suggestion of what has changed in the world) before presenting a wh Content Warnings: alzheimers/memory loss, degenerative/terminal illness, arachnophobia, mild body horror. The Collection Overall: Nina Allan's The Art of Space Travel and Other Stories is a very subtle type of sci-fi that meanders through themes of art, memory, connection, global catastrophe, and what it means to be human. I find my favorite stories in this collection only just briefly brush against the sci-fi (containing only a suggestion of what has changed in the world) before presenting a wholly human story. Though, as with any collection, I was not a fan of Every story, I very much enjoyed the journey that the combination of stories (and occasionally continuations of stories) took me on. The subtlety of the pieces, and their consistent tone, make for very meditative reads. I would definitely come back to most of these stories again, if only to see how their stories change for me with time. Amethyst ⭐⭐⭐⭐ I know it’s not the focus of the story, but the sense of uncanny when a place that is mundane for you receives national attention (and also the “hometown hero” artist) was truly spot on. It was the perfect spot to start the story and created a wonderful mood for the rest of the work to settle in. Heroes ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ I'm not sure what to think of this story. On the surface, it was interesting (if a little slow). Allan mentioned her short stories feeling like pieces of larger novels, and that was certainly true of this one. I am fascinated by Marten and his life, and want to know more—perhaps even more so than Finlay. A Thread of Truth ⭐⭐⭐ This was a very interesting and creative Gothic tale that I just couldn't seem to connect with. It was whole and complete and we'll crafted, but just missed the mark for me. I think, perhaps, it was the way the protagonist thought of women that pushed me out and made me reluctant to leave the spiders. Flying in the Face of God ⭐⭐ I'm torn on this story. This collection is starting to evoke a great frustration and it refuses to focus on the things and people I find most interesting. Flying suffers the misfortune of not just focusing on someone I am ambivalent too, but someone I don't really care for at all. As a result, it was very bland. Microcosmos ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ This one was more dystopian/apocalyptic than sci-fi but I really enjoyed the small piece of story it offered. Just enough world and character to give a suggestion of a larger story, and one I would very much like to read. Fairy Skulls ⭐⭐⭐⭐ I rather like the tone this story (and Vinnie) take towards life, though I can't agree with her colonizer view of fairy skull jewelry ownership. The perfunctory ending to the story was delightful and meaningful. The Science of Chance ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ This is one of my favorite types of short story: mysterious, science fiction, mundane, and leaving you with a sense of incompleteness (intentionally) or perhaps unease. Marielena ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ I would LOVE Mary's entire novel, but I am quite fond of how her story is told here. The faintest suggestion of science fiction is really effective here, and I enjoyed it immensely. The Art of Space Travel ⭐⭐⭐ Oddly, I'm not quite a fan of this story because there is too much resolution. I've become a big fan of the way Allan's stories typically leave so much unanswered or in question, and this one wraps up too nearly. Pleasant, bite-size, but ultimately lacks the interest of other stories. Neptune's Trident ⭐⭐ I think it's a sad fact of living through a global pandemic that makes any story with a similar plot feel lesser. This story is fine and interesting, and even rings more true than others, but there's so little bite to the world collapsing to sickness now. Even alien sickness. Four Abstracts ⭐⭐⭐⭐ I wasn't super excited to see the return of Jennie Chilcot, but I was pleasantly surprised by this story. I think I was right the first time and centering the women helped immensely. I wish I could see the art that Beck made—it was very well described and sounded incredible. The Common Tongue, The Present Tense, The Known ⭐⭐⭐ Another expansion, and I'm not quite sure how to rate it. Some of my questions got answered… but the answers were kind of lackluster. The dreamy, thoughtful atmosphere was good, but I don't really feel like either Melodie or Noemi said anything. The Gift of Angels ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ This story was truly lovely. A pure romanticization that resists (most) cliches and tells a simple, heartfelt story with grace. It expands on The Art of Space Travel in a way that makes me like the former more than I originally did. A Princess of Mars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ I've never read a short story quite like this—almost more criticism than story, but linked into a beautiful subtle world. There was something quite meditative about it. I rather liked the ending. Thank you to NetGalley and Titan Books for providing this e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tracey Thompson

    Few things delight me more than a strong, consistent short story collection. Anthologies, by their very nature, are varied, and the constant switches between authors can prevent the reader from gaining a sense of flow. But well-written, single-author collections are to be treasured. There is nothing like being taken by the hand, and following the author on a winding path to their inner world. This is especially true with Nina Allan’s collection, The Art of Space Travel and Other Stories. Allan’s Few things delight me more than a strong, consistent short story collection. Anthologies, by their very nature, are varied, and the constant switches between authors can prevent the reader from gaining a sense of flow. But well-written, single-author collections are to be treasured. There is nothing like being taken by the hand, and following the author on a winding path to their inner world. This is especially true with Nina Allan’s collection, The Art of Space Travel and Other Stories. Allan’s fantastic introduction provides a real insight into how her writing has evolved through the years, her tendency to avoid technology in her stories, and the central themes her stories cover; memory, loss, time, and sense of place. As a newcomer to Allan’s work, I enjoyed getting inside her head before diving into her work. But the real treats here are the stories, and they are wonderful. Allan’s writing covers the uncanny, the unknown, the dystopian future, and most importantly, people. While most of Allan’s stories deal in some way with the supernatural, or the distant future, at the heart of every tale is a deeply human story. Whether it be pigeon racing in Heroes, a bracelet made from questionable objects in Fairy Skulls, or overcoming a fear of spiders in A Thread of Truth, Allan focuses on the characters, and how the events of the story impact and shape who they are. But there were two things that made me absolutely adore this collection. The first is Allan’s frequent mentions of books and films. I think this is the first time I’ve come away from a collection with more books to add to my TBR pile. Mentions of Ray Bradbury, J.G Ballard, Chris Marker’s short film La Jetee, to name but a few. Allan is clearly an author who loves to read, and share that love with others. As a reader, this assured me I was in very safe hands. The second thing is how these stories link together. I won’t give too much away, but it made me beam with delight when I came across an event, or a character, that Allan had mentioned in an earlier story. It gave validity to the world Allan has created. And I also felt rewarded, in a strange way. The stories in The Art of Space Travel are warm, human, heartbreaking, and incredible. This collection was a very pleasant surprise, and I am now a huge Nina Allan fan. If you enjoy the work of Elizabeth Hand, David Mitchell, and Kelly Link, I think you’ll love this collection too.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Paige

    I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. For some unknown reason when I picked this up I thought I was getting a collection of Sci-Fi stories, perhaps due to the title and the cover. However, this is a lot more a collection of character-driven stories that explore memory, loss and human connection. So, while there are some talks of space travel and sci-fi elements, these aren't your typical sci-fi short stories. In the authors note at the very beginning Nina Allan talks ab I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. For some unknown reason when I picked this up I thought I was getting a collection of Sci-Fi stories, perhaps due to the title and the cover. However, this is a lot more a collection of character-driven stories that explore memory, loss and human connection. So, while there are some talks of space travel and sci-fi elements, these aren't your typical sci-fi short stories. In the authors note at the very beginning Nina Allan talks about her journey as a writer, and about the stories that are within the book. She lets you know that the first three are very early stories, and that she has mostly left the stories untouched, except for some minor edits and clean up. The first three stories are definitely different to the rest, they show huge potential and give you a lot less answers than the rest of the stories. They're ones that leave you wondering just what was going on, and to be honest it wasn't my favourite. However, where they really shone was to show just how much Allan's writing has grown and developed over the years. There's definitely cross-overs between stories, even if they aren't obviously signalled or confirmed. People with a better attention to detail than me will surely pick up on much more than I did, and be able to make connections that I will have missed. I'm sure this is a collection that can be read again and again to see all of these things. Some of my favourite stories are to do with space travel, but seen from Earth and those left behind rather than those who are flying off into the stars. It explores the ideas of those left behind, of supporting someone as they make the choice to leave forever and to be a pioneer. These stories really piqued my interest, and they were the ones where I think I saw connections between them. These stories don't give you answers, they don't come with plots that connect the dots. Sometimes they just end and I wasn't entirely sure what the 'point' of them was, but this is me. I know I'm not the best at making connections unless they're obvious. So please take this with a pinch of salt. If this sounds like something you will enjoy pick it up. Nina Allan is clearly a wonderful writer and the strength in this collection is seeing her grow and develop over the years.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Set The Tape

    There is an air of haunting that hangs over this entire collection of short stories: a sense of bewilderment from the characters as they glimpse what might be the truth; a sense of disbelief – the meaning slipping away from them as they try to comprehend what may really be happening. Might be. May be. Because there are few certainties here. The sense that something strange or unearthly is happening is pervasive – but maybe that’s just what you, the reader, are choosing to see. Nina Allan’s The A There is an air of haunting that hangs over this entire collection of short stories: a sense of bewilderment from the characters as they glimpse what might be the truth; a sense of disbelief – the meaning slipping away from them as they try to comprehend what may really be happening. Might be. May be. Because there are few certainties here. The sense that something strange or unearthly is happening is pervasive – but maybe that’s just what you, the reader, are choosing to see. Nina Allan’s The Art of Space Travel and Other Stories is true speculative fiction – otherworldly, transformative, substantial yet dissolving. FULL REVIEW - https://setthetape.com/2021/09/03/the...

  15. 5 out of 5

    John Dodd

    An interesting collection of stories, many with similar topics and ideas, which as a writer, I do find fascinating, as it provided a lens through which to view another writers history and the ways in which they've changed over the years. There are similarities in the subjects, loss, hope, the need for things to mean something, and while the sentiments may appear the same, the nuance is only visible as you read on and you see the subtle changes, the slight deviations from previous narratives, the An interesting collection of stories, many with similar topics and ideas, which as a writer, I do find fascinating, as it provided a lens through which to view another writers history and the ways in which they've changed over the years. There are similarities in the subjects, loss, hope, the need for things to mean something, and while the sentiments may appear the same, the nuance is only visible as you read on and you see the subtle changes, the slight deviations from previous narratives, the view of the writer changing, even as they think about the same things. The study in how a writer changes proved fascinating, I'd recommend this to anyone, but especially to other writers to see that while you remain the same, you change with every word you write.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Francisco

    The Art of Space Travel and Other Stories [Blurb goes here] This is a beautifully written book, the prose feeling almost poetic, Nina Allan has something special here, since her style goes back and forward as if talking to someone that has ADHD. Her characters thought process jumps all over the place, enriching their feelings/stories for specific situations. This was something I really enjoyed. Unfortunately, some of the stories are 'just there' they don't have a deeper meaning, and end up abruptl The Art of Space Travel and Other Stories [Blurb goes here] This is a beautifully written book, the prose feeling almost poetic, Nina Allan has something special here, since her style goes back and forward as if talking to someone that has ADHD. Her characters thought process jumps all over the place, enriching their feelings/stories for specific situations. This was something I really enjoyed. Unfortunately, some of the stories are 'just there' they don't have a deeper meaning, and end up abruptly. They feel empty. That being said, I enjoyed it, even though some of the stories felt like a life time with no prize at the end. Thank you for the advanced copy!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Phillip

    The Art of Space Travel and other stories by Nina Allan is further proof that when the Guardian UK called Nina as one of the 50 writers you should read was a very accurate call. I have only read this collection and one of her novels but I would say that I would be happy to go through the backlist sooner rather than later (In fact I have a copy of The Silver Wind near the top of my TBR). Her strengths are her characters, which are all fully fleshed out, you feel that their lives go on even after t The Art of Space Travel and other stories by Nina Allan is further proof that when the Guardian UK called Nina as one of the 50 writers you should read was a very accurate call. I have only read this collection and one of her novels but I would say that I would be happy to go through the backlist sooner rather than later (In fact I have a copy of The Silver Wind near the top of my TBR). Her strengths are her characters, which are all fully fleshed out, you feel that their lives go on even after the story finishes. Indeed there are many stories within this collection that you could argue do not have an ending, and this is a good thing.

  18. 5 out of 5

    TimetoFangirl

    I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I absolutely love short story collections written entirely by one author. That said, the writing style of Ms. Allen just doesn't work for me. I'm giving this book a pretty neutral rating because the stories were well thought out and technically strong, it just doesn't line up with my personal preference. I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I absolutely love short story collections written entirely by one author. That said, the writing style of Ms. Allen just doesn't work for me. I'm giving this book a pretty neutral rating because the stories were well thought out and technically strong, it just doesn't line up with my personal preference.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Chip

    While rich in character and ideas, these stories are novels cut short. They intrigue but do not develop with great pacing or they instead tease a longer work that isn’t to come. Strong writing, but each one felt incomplete.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Lots of good stories here. I won't review them individually, but there is a good variety and I can clearly see the author's talent. Recommended to short story scifi fans. Thanks very much for the free review copy!! Lots of good stories here. I won't review them individually, but there is a good variety and I can clearly see the author's talent. Recommended to short story scifi fans. Thanks very much for the free review copy!!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mario Guslandi

    My full review has been published elsewhere. Certainly a book well worth reading by an excellent author.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nora

    Something about this collection just stuck with me. The stories were all deeply profound and complicated and left me grappling with a vast range of emotions after each and every one. Some were more extraterrestrial than others, but all served as a brilliant homage to science fiction as a whole. The protagonists were all complex and the overall collection flowed seamlessly from one story to the next. Some left me wildly unsettled while others seemed to blossom with hope. I loved reading this shor Something about this collection just stuck with me. The stories were all deeply profound and complicated and left me grappling with a vast range of emotions after each and every one. Some were more extraterrestrial than others, but all served as a brilliant homage to science fiction as a whole. The protagonists were all complex and the overall collection flowed seamlessly from one story to the next. Some left me wildly unsettled while others seemed to blossom with hope. I loved reading this short story collection and will definitely be reading more by Allan in the future. Thank you to NetGalley and Titan Books for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    There is an air of haunting that hangs over this entire collection of short stories: a sense of bewilderment from the characters as they glimpse what might be the truth; a sense of disbelief – the meaning slipping away from them as they try to comprehend what may really be happening... Full review: https://setthetape.com/2021/09/03/the... There is an air of haunting that hangs over this entire collection of short stories: a sense of bewilderment from the characters as they glimpse what might be the truth; a sense of disbelief – the meaning slipping away from them as they try to comprehend what may really be happening... Full review: https://setthetape.com/2021/09/03/the...

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lira

  25. 4 out of 5

    Agnes

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mat Joiner

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mike Hoste

  28. 4 out of 5

    Dr. Malcolm C. Ostermeyer

  29. 5 out of 5

    Pmorgan1685

  30. 4 out of 5

    Nicola

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...