This novel is a collection of three science fiction short stories written by Jim Johnson (co-author of ‘Port Nowhere’) which are all very different and bizarre pieces of work. Each of the three stories is based on our solar system which makes them even more chilling to read. There are three pieces of art throughout the book, all done by Jim Johnson himself. They are cartoon drawings with one drawing before each story, each cartoon being based on one of the stories in the book. These cartoons are very well drawn, Jim Johnson showing that he has more than just a talent for writing.
The first story is entitled ‘The Europa Contact’ and is quite peculiar and wacky. It’s about a man, Paul Stone, who works on Jupiter as a deep sea diver and must escape the space station that he works on before the ‘thing in the deep’ kills him. This story has quite an abrupt ending and is quite similar to and brings to mind the book/movie ‘Alien’ when reading it. Overall this is a good story, Jim Johnson showing early on in his novel that he has quite a vivid imagination.
The second story is entitled ‘Outreach Station’ and again is a very bizarre and interesting piece of work. It’s about a vermin exterminator, Eric Foster, living on an old run down space station that is stranded in the outer reaches of space and has been for centuries. Eric must make a living with the help of his pet rat Xenon, the rat helping Eric get work by making appearances in other people’s rooms. One day Eric gets more than he bargains for when he is called to a job where he encounters the first of many mutant rats. Jim Johnson writes a brilliant story, once again incorporating and basing the piece on our solar system. Personally, this is my favourite story of the three as it isn’t as abrupt as ‘The Europa Contact’ and was quite an enjoyable and interesting read.
The third and final story is ‘The Red Sand Sea’ and is about an engineer, Joe Simmons, who lives and works on Mars. In his work he repairs and maintains water taps that are used to mine the planets water supply to supply settlements that are established on the red planet. Joe is asked to go out and repair a tap that two colleagues have previously gone out to fix and haven’t returned. He goes out to fix the tap and once he realises why and how his colleagues went missing, Joe unleashes a personal vendetta against the company that he works for in an effort to stop the mining. The imagery that Jim Johnson uses to describe Mars in this story is brilliant.
These three stories are a good collection of science fiction short stories, though the endings tend to be quite abrupt. I hope in this authors next release there is as much content as quality. Jim is a great writer whose talents will develop further with each release. Imagery used in all three stories is excellent and the characters used definitely develop with the story.
To order this novel by Jim Johnson, go to: www.mystictoad.com
Review by Jason Damman
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© 2005 Jason Damman