Ian Watson is one of science fictions rare gems; the man's career has been very, very wide. From being the first person to write about Warhammer 40,000's Space Marines to being responsible for the screenplay of the movie AI, Watson has scattered his wide and crazy talent across the sci-fi world for decades, always happy to make the reader stop and think. Engaging is a good word to describe Watson's work, challenging is another.
Even the cover and title of his latest collection of short stories is a challenge. Called The 1000 Year Reich, the cover (produced by splendid Spanish artist and award winning author Juan Miguel Aguilera) requires a moment of consideration. The detailed sci-fi art depicts a sci-fi German army, one that evokes all sorts of feelings of conflict, which will make some readers uncomfortable and others relish the task set.
The stories are wide in scope, clever in concept and wild in execution. Take the title story, for example. The 1000 Year Reich is set in a world where mankind has colonised the moon, but also a world where Nazi Germany has taken a good-sized chunk of the world (but not all of it.) Does the story focus on this? No, it's about a bunch of teenagers on the moon (literally lunatics) who uncover plans for one of Wilhelm Reich's cloudbusting 'sex energy' devices and begin experimenting. The story In Golden Armour takes a different approach to the concept of 'Space Marine', yet again going in a direction that people who are very familiar with the words 'Space Marine' perhaps would not expect. What you should expect from this collection is lots of stories set in Europe, clever ideas, parodies of current trends and amazing concepts.
Ian Watson is one of those writers that many prefer to read in short bursts, as he fills the page with so many inventive tangents and ideas that it can take you a little while to digest and comprehend what he's up to. As such, a short story anthology of his work is a perfect introduction to this master of science fiction. If you love the genre and you're in need of a change of style, then give this one a go.
THE 1000 YEAR REICH / AUTHOR: IAN WATSON / PUBLISHER: NEWCON PRESS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW