________________ CM . . . . Volume V Number 21 . . . . June 18, 1999

cover What If . . .? Amazing Stories Selected by Monica Hughes.

Monica Hughes (ed.)
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 1998.
199 pp., pbk., $7.99.
ISBN 0-88776-458-4.

Subject Headings:
Fantasy fiction, Canadian (English).
Science fiction, Canadian (English).
Children's stories, Canadian (English).

Grades 6 and up / Ages 11 and up.
Review by Darleen Golke.

**** /4


The beings were the ship: the ship was the beings. And they were feeding off me. It was my imagination they wanted. I gave it willingly, and the thing around me grew brighter, stronger. The miraculous thing was that I didn't feel any weaker. It did not drain me. I just felt clearer as if a weight was being lifted from me. It was as if I had been saving up for this for years.

I don't know how long I stood there. Long enough for the ship's light to become too bright to look at anymore. I closed my eyes, swaying a bit to the music without fear of falling. I was held up by light. Then, at last, I could feel it leaving me, feel it rising. I let it go. You cannot hold onto imagination.
--from "Eternity Leave" by Tim Wynne-Jones

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.

Highly Recommended.

Darleen Golke works as the teacher-librarian at Fort Richmond Collegiate in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364