Suzie Eisfelder
January 31, 2022

This is one of those must have books. I saw it at Continuum 15 in 2019, it became one of those books I absolutely must have. And I’m so glad I gave into temptation. The idea of New Ceres Night was the brainchild of Gillian Polack, and when she presented her idea to a number of writer friends a collaboration was born. It is a world shared by writers and artists, readers, fans and detail-freaks, who grew and developed the original idea into a webzine and eventually into this book. I haven’t tried to find the original webzines, I should as these stories are absolutely brilliant and I feel the webzines will show a similar brilliance.

This volume contains the following authors and their stunning stories:

  • ‘Debutante’ — Dirk Flinthart
  • ‘The Widow’s Seven Candles’ — Thoraiya Dyer
  • ‘Code Duello’ — J C Hay
  • ‘Murder in Laochan’ — Aliette de Bodard
  • ‘Tontine Mary’ — Kaaron Warren
  • ‘Fair Trade’ — Stephen Dedman
  • ‘A Troublesome Day for Jacky Midnight’ — Matthew Farrer
  • ‘Prosperine When It Sizzles’ — Tansy Rayner Roberts
  • ‘Candle to the Devil’ — Sue Isle
  • ‘Blessed Are the Dead that the Rain Falls Upon’ — Martin Livings
  • ‘The Sharp Shooter’ — Sylvia Kelso
  • ‘Smuggler’s Moon’ — Lee Battersby
  • ‘The Piece of Ice in Miss Windermere’s Heart’ — Angela Slatter

Each one gives a slightly different viewpoint of the world that is New Ceres. They show that maybe it’s not so good to be stuck in the past. The idea of New Ceres is that of a world which chooses to remain in the Eighteenth Century. But there can be issues with that, although sometimes it’s a good thing.

If you want to read extracts from some of the stories click here. If you’d prefer to just buy it because you have the same problem as me you can click here. If you’d prefer me to persuade you with a few more words then I’ll talk about one story.

‘Murder in Laochan’ by Aliette de Bodard is the story that made the most impact on me. Forget that every single story is just beautifully written, this one was the best. On New Ceres you have a group of people tasked with keeping the world in the Eighteenth Century. They have enhancements, you could probably call them androids, or at least, a mixture of android and human. Zhongli Quan was sent to Laochan to investigate a murder. That seems straightforward but one catch is the body is missing. The writing was beautifully set down, I loved how Bodard brought us the information we needed. And some of her descriptions are so short but give so much detail. This snippet for example

‘Quan arrived at his destination early the next morning breathing in the mist that hung thick over the rice paddies.’

This is one whole paragraph. And in those few words I can feel the mist settling into my lungs as I breathe. We’re shown how early Quan arrived by use of the mist, it’s something that does disperse as the sun rises, I’ve noticed it on odd occasions. Mentioning the rice paddies gives us some idea of what they do in Laochan and stresses the Eastern nature of the area. I finished that story one night and put the book down with the comment ‘I want more’. I’ll have to stalk Bodard and buy more of her books. And I could say that about a number of the authors in this book…I just want more of their writing.

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