CM . . . .
Volume V Number 21 . . . . June 18, 1999
The creative power of imagination vitalizes each of the 16 selections included in the collection, What If . . .? Amazing Stories. The two poems, one excerpt from a novel, and 13 stories selected by Monica Hughes for publication are, in her own words, "more of fantasy than 'hard' science fiction" yet "almost all of them" touch "base right here on Earth." "Perhaps," she muses, "it takes fantasy and science fiction to open our eyes to the wonders of Earth."
Each of the selections starts from the speculative "what if" formula employed by fiction writers. The introductory poem, "Star-Seeing Night," looks up to the stars; the concluding poem, "The Water Traders' Dream," focuses on the precious commodity, water. The authors explore standard themes and set all but two of the stories, "Moon Maiden" and "The Book of Days," on planet earth. Hughes' story, "The Stranger," presents a dysfunctional family observed by a lonely "being from another planet marooned on Earth." Camille, a "chosen one" in "Eternity Leave" is touched by spaceship beings and faces the reality of death and loss. The threat of the unknown lurking interferes with "an exploration Mission" in "The Tunnel" while moon madness haunts Kate in "Moon Maiden" when she encounters "elegant spirit beings in a lunar realm."
Magic figures prominently in several of the stories. "A Wish Named Arnold" features a magic brass egg, "Muffin Explains Teleology to the World at Large" a plane-boat, "The Mask" a greenish-black Wild Man of the Woods mask, "The Stone Scepter" an unusual walking stick, "Paper" origami figures coming to life, and "Frosty" a snowman with an agenda. "The Good Mother" presents a world in which enormous animals dominate humankind yet the "big bad wolf" is also a devoted mother willing to compromise. Although "The Road to Shambhala" incorporates mystical elements, it highlights the environmental issue of endangered species. "Lukas 19" explores the controversial subject of genetic engineering, particularly human cloning.
Of course, not all selections will appeal to all reading tastes, but the imagination that powers each shines brightly. The reader may pick and choose, a major advantage of a collection. The protagonists are appealing and believable young people, facing conflict with courage and resilience. Most of the plot lines build to surprising conclusions offering enlightenment on the way.
Notes on the authors, all Canadian, round out the collection.
Darleen Golke works as the teacher-librarian at Fort Richmond Collegiate in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.