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Super Flat Times: Stories    by Matthew Derby order for
Super Flat Times
by Matthew Derby
Order:  USA  Can
Back Bay, 2003 (2003)
*   Reviewed by Sally Selvadurai

This book does not live up to its cover, which tells us to 'Be prepared to laugh, to be uplifted, to be a tiny bit ruined'. The only one of these I felt was the ruin - that someone should have such a negative view of how humankind will be generations from now. Matthew Derby's book is really a collection of 'recovered memories' retrieved by some future technology from air bubbles; these air bubbles were produced by dying individuals after they were pushed into pools of liquid, cement-like muck. The author has already published some of these memories as stand-alone short stories.

In Super Flat Times, Derby envisions the human race evolving, presumably by inaction, into an almost amoebic organism, with folds of excess flesh, skin flaps and little mobility. Each tale is different, although they do have one thing in common - they are depressing. The author covers, in various stories, the on-going desire to reproduce, even though many of the future humans will have little ability to 'perform' sexually; the ever-present quest for racial purity, that ebbs and flows through generations; the bullying of the weaker, or different, individuals by the stronger, either singly or in packs; and the omnipresent law enforcers.

Will we not have the right to work after 20? Will we not have the ability to copulate? Will we not have the right to decide for ourselves whether to have children? Will we have polluted the atmosphere so badly that the clouds are 'solid' and 'brown'? Will we really have our behaviour scripted by others, using vapour from seeded cloud bursts to modify our very existence, day by day?

I recommend Super Flat Times mainly to the die-hard science fiction fan; although some aspects are quite clever, I found it just too discouraging and certainly not funny in any but the odd sense.

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