A VIEW BEFORE DYING
Ticonderoga Publications, Firebird Distributors / 67 pages / June 1998
Wouldn’t it be great if the tectonic shift picked up speed? Then, maybe, we could get some of these great Australian authors a little closer to home. (My home, that is.) There is some amazing stuff coming out from down under, and a lot of it is staying down there. Panic not. Ticonderoga has prepared a little sampler of one of the best of the bunch; consider it an introduction to author Sean Williams.
You probably recognize the name from the very popular The Resurrection Man. Although he is a relative newcomer, Williams has been creating some of the most imaginative science fiction in the field in the past few years. And this chapbook, A View Before Dying, is an excellent illustration of his fertile and febrile vision.
D-mat is the answer to all of mankind’s transportation problems. It really is a small world when it’s possible to teleport to any location, provided there is a D-mat capsule waiting for you there. What an awe-inspiring invention! What a chance to really #%^&* up. And people — being people — are going to take that chance.
“New Flames For An Old Love” introduces Marcus deBarrow, the brilliant and enormously disturbed inventor of the miraculous process. Just about everyone is going to be sorry they ever heard his name. He has been disappointed in love and he intends to make certain everyone knows exactly how disappointed he is. Every fibre of the story carries a distinct chill that is more than fulfilled by the final scene.
The possible impact on space exploration is explored in the grim A View Before Dying. What a huge boost to be able to transport workers instantaneously to moving probes. Except, the transfer appears to be immediate only to the travellers; back on Earth time is proceeding normally and moving past them. Oh yes! And there’s always the possibility that it will turn out to be a one-way trip.
Williams conveys the claustrophobic isolation of the maintenance crew of Saul 1 almost too well. The countdown to disaster rushes by in nightmarish slow motion — time running out, but somehow seeming to come to a standstill. Another worst-case scenario for a time of technological miracles.
Julia and David are aware of the dangers of the D-mat. They know it in the way youths knows all unpleasant facts; accidents happen to other people. Invincible teenagers can take all the crazy risks they want, because, obviously, young people don’t die. But, there may be worse things than death.
Sibling rivalry at its finest and its most menacing.
From Sean Williams at his finest and, perhaps, his most menacing, but definitely at his peak. A View Before Dying is spell-binding, horrifying, and dazzling. Add to that intelligent commentary and you’ve got the total package. Pick up a package of contemplation on your way home. Get your daily minimum requirement — and appreciate every minute of it.