Science fiction gives the opportunity for scientists to explore and speculate about our universe, far beyond the realms and restrictions of their academic world. As an astrophysicist working at Imperial College London, David L. Clements certainly uses this form of literature to stunning effect in his collection of short stories.
As you might expect, most of the stories are about probability and the paradoxes and mysteries of our existence on a galactic scale. In Re-Creation, he tells of how a huge rock travelling through space, is examined by a space crew over a period of thousands of years. One faction on the craft wants to get on with the task of destroying the object, another want to probe it for signs of intelligent life. What they discover, without giving the twist at the end away, is easily understood by us but remains a mystery to those space faring ‘gods’.
Although Clements looks at such mind numbingly huge sweeps of time and space, he also finds room for humour and some rather quirky tales. Cases in point are his stories about guerrilla gardeners who oppose the exclusive ownership of seeds by huge corporations. The situation gets so controversial that the BBC’s Gardener’s Question Time programme becomes a ‘hot potato’ that has to be cancelled. As a guerrilla seed distributor, the main character is called Percy Thrower, a pleasingly appropriate name that harks back to Britain’s first celebrity gardener.
For a quirky story, we get His Final Experiment that meets the challenge of using the future tense to tell the story of investigating whether or not we are governed by predetermination or not. It is a mix of Inspector Morse meets quantum mechanics, with a rather unsettling dilemma at the conclusion.
Clements provides a few words at the end of each story, which tells us what factors brought them into creative existence and how they attempt to tackle and discuss them, in the light of current knowledge. As such it follows a long line of ‘hard science fiction’ literature but, unlike some of those works, it is never dull or pedestrian.
DISTURBED UNIVERSES / AUTHOR: DAVID L. CLEMENTS / PUBLISHER: NEWCON PRESS / RELEASE DATE: 11TH APRIL 2016