The book has a theme, which weaves the anthology together: Time. Not that time is a factor in every story - after all, variety is the spice of life - but it is present in the majority; used with subtlety in some and more blatantly in others.

Liz Williams' evocative story, which opens the collection, conjures up an England of knights and peasants; a land caught in the grip of an unnatural winter, where summer is a distant memory. It involves a quest to find a mysterious metal tower - said to have fallen from the skies generations ago - and the consequences of its discovery.

Jon Courtenay-Grimwood plunges the reader instantly into a cyberpunk world of inequality and desperation. His customary slick prose steers us through a tale of intelligent guns and street-wise kids, in which violence is ever-imminent and the price of passage is everything.

Sarah Singleton graces us with an SF mystery-thriller, set in the 1940's, just prior to the outbreak of World War II. This atmospheric tale takes us into a world of shadowy intrigue and top secret research projects, when a journalist discovers that an old friend - a scientist - has disappeared.

Stephen Baxter provides a delightfully wry and whimsical tale about entropy, which takes a sideways swipe at that great British institution: the bureaucrat. It is easy to imagine the shade of Eric Frank Russell peering over the author's shoulder as he wrote this and nodding with approval. The spirit of Allamagoosa lives on!

Steve Cockayne, in his short story debut, masterfully recreates the atmosphere of an English country village and provides warning of the perils inherent in attending folk-nights at the local pub. As with everything the author writes, a sense of impending wonder and surrealism suffuses the narrative throughout.

Ian Watson's story is one of invention and discovery, encompassing genius and foolishness along the way - not to mention humour and avarice - as the protagonist closes in on the ultimate scientific breakthrough and its attendant financial reward. Of course, being an Ian Watson, nothing is quite that straight forward.

Mark Robson gives full rein to his penchant for fast-paced action in his piece: a taut thriller-noire set in the future of another world - a planet where crime lords hold sway and a relic from ancient Earth is worth killing for. As with Steve Cockayne, the author is essentially a novelist and this is his first ever published short story.

Ian Whates... contributes a time-tripping tale of unexplained missions, sabotage and duplicity, in a story written deliberately as homage to Fritz Leiber, Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov, Connie Willis and the many other writers who have travelled the timelines before.

TIME PIECES: Eight special stories, one very special book.

Genre: Science Fiction

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