A&A reviews: Temporally Out of Order

Temporally cover

Temporally Out of Order 

Edited by Joshua Palmatier & Patricia Bray (Zombies Need Brains LLC)

This is a themed short story collection about Time travel, but it’s all inadvertent time travel. That makes this collection unique, in my opinion. As is our custom, we will touch on each story in our review.

The first offering is “Reading Lists” by Seanan McGuire. There is a room in a library that is out of order due to a “causality problem.” 51-year-old Megan Halprin keeps taking out books, that show her to have taken it out already, and it’s five years overdue. A story of how reading can change your life, and the earlier, the better.

Chefs and foodies will really enjoy Elektra Hammond’s short “Salamander Bites,” all about an oven that causes one restaurant to open and another to close. It’s about honesty and skill, too.

“Black and White” by David B. Coe is a mystery. The camera her grandfather left Jesse take pictures of what happened 50 years ago. And those pictures of the past, taken today, explain why her grandmother hid some photos of something she was a part of then but ashamed of now.

A crock pot with a ‘factory defect’ that makes it bring things forward from the age of thunder lizards is the malfunctioning item in “Dinosaur Stew” by Chuck Rothman. Anyone who has ever raised rambunctious boys or dealt with unwanted pets will get a huge kick out of this one!

“Not All Is As It Seems” by Faith Hunter is a most excellent entré into the world of her paranormal novels. It’s a tempest about a temporally displaced teapot, or more properly about what possesses it.

Time travelling baseball cards ask a young baseball player to choose his fate in “Batting Out of Order” by Edmund R. Schubert. This is perhaps the deepest and most touching story in the volume. If writing gems like this is why he retired from editing at IGMS, I say, “more, please.”

Rather than a temporally malfunctioning camera, “Grand Tour” by Steve Ruskin features a historical-vision camera lucida, a device used to project a scene onto paper for sketching and painting. It only shows each scene from the past once. Well not exactly malfunctioning . . . it’s haunted, in a good way.

The temporally affected appliance in “’A’ is for Alacrity, Astronauts, and Grief” by Sofie Bird is a typewriter. A message from the future, and it would give too much away to say where and who in the future, helps a woman make a right choice in a dysfunctional family situation,

“The Spiel of the Glocken” by Laura Resnick is a madcap romp through a “what if?” scenario where a fancy European clockwork imported to grace a government building in a town’s center causes chaos. Each time the bell rings, another scene from local history happens in front of the eyes of a coffee shop patron and his barista. They disable the clock before the town dissolves under the weight of various temporal dangers.

Next in line is “The Passing Bell” by Amy Griswold, which features a temporally odd church bell, that rings a death knell before a death, spelling out many details about the death in a sort of code. Talk about foreshadowing! But there’s a twist at the end.

“Destination Ahead” by Laura Anne Gilman is about a malfunctioning GPS, that sends a modern family in its SUV back to pioneer days. A non-traditional family learns valuable lessons, and the nearly sentient GPS seems smug.

“Where There’s Smoke” by Susan Jett stars a temporally strange smoke alarm. It keeps going off at the same time every night, or should I say obscenely early every morning. The mystery has an interesting and happy ending.

The fantastic “Alien Time Warp” by Gini Koch is part of a larger universe. It’s class A, sweep-you-off your-feet writing about time loops and great characters and a telescope that looks across time-branched universes. If you liked Quantum Leap you’re going to LOVE this one.

“Cell Service” by Christopher Barili is the story of a couple, married ten years and in the process of divorce, that gets messages from themselves in the past on a series of old cell phones they were about to discard. Part Frequency, part Brainstorm, all wonderful

A parking garage is “Temporally Full” in a poignant little story by Stephen Leigh. And it allows a man to communicate to his father why he left and never came back before his dad died.

“Notes and Queries” by Juliet E. McKenna had perhaps the oddest temporally out of order story of the lot: an ATM that spewed bank notes from the past and the future. Once the busker main character realized that the crisp older notes were genuine, she bet a huge sum by asking the ATM to disgorge her daily limit of cash. If they were from the past, she’d be rich.

Last up we have a bit of medical whimsy, a temporally-out-of- joint prosthetic nose that lets a widower smell what life would have been like had his wife survived the car crash that also took his nose. Jeremy Sim’s “Temporally Out of Order: A Fragrant Fable” has more to it than that. Fittingly, for the end of the book, it’s about endings, beginnings and going on with your life.

A thoroughly enjoyable anthology.


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