Nalo Hopkinson &
Geoff Ryman, editors,
Tesseracts Nine
(Edge, 2006)

Editor Geoff Ryman protests in the introduction of Tesseracts Nine: New Canadian Speculative Fiction that there is no "Canadian identity," that Canadian and especially speculative fiction are universal. That's a relief, since it means anyone anywhere could put together a collection as excellent as Tesseract Nine -- assuming, of course, they had recourse to the pool of authorial and editorial content here that just happens to be Canadian.

The general run of stories in Tesseracts is friendlier than those in most anthologies, magic closer to hand and wonder more immediate. Above all, the wonder and magic in the worlds of Tesseracts are immediate, not dependent on random chance or grand fate to reveal themselves to mere mortals, but an almost inescapable part of daily life. Nancy Kilpatrick digs "Our Lady of the Snows" out of a rubbish heap to work the most impossible of miracles: changing a mind. Sarah Totton finds eternity in a handful of cheap glass in "Jimmy Away to Me," and Marg Gilks leads the same power to her with a path of flower petals and a little patience "Before the Altar on the Feast of All Souls."

Tesseracts also distinguishes itself in a way so rare, so utterly unexpected for an adult spec-fic anthology, it takes some time to be aware of the difference. The stories in Tesseracts have, one and all, a sense of humor. This doesn't mean they're comedy stories; this isn't a collection of comic fantasy. But when Candas Jane Dorsey introduces "Mom & Mother Teresa," she's content to let the natural absurdities resulting from the clash of cultures occur without any grand philosophizing from her. Timothy J. Anderson's "Newbie Wrangler," part psychopomp and part divine messenger, never speaks with disrespect of God or the newly dead, but he finds it hard to be in awe of a God who drowses off in the heat of the day. Alette J. Willis' tale of stray "Thought & Memory" features birds that will be laughably familiar to fans of mythology or ornithology. And Jerome Stuart's "Lemmings in the Third Year" manages to be both laugh-out-loud funny and thoughtful, almost painful in this tale of strange talking animals and the scientific method.

Such deeper moments aren't rare in Tesseracts. Peter Watts and Darryl Murphy's "Mayfly" is a highly disturbing look at the dark intersection of medical achievement and parental desires, and Sylvie Berard's "Wings to Fly" shows the destruction of a life in little more than the note on a postcard. But even these shadows have their brighter moments. This is a collection where even the vampires have their friendly side, and mistakes of the past can be repaired despite time travel.

Tesseracts Nine mixes the wonder of the stars with the magic of humanity, and the combination is potent.

by Sarah Meador
14 October 2006

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