Review of “Unlikely Messiah” by William R Mitchell

Unlikely Messiah and other stories    Unlikely Messiah is a collection of science fiction stories from a new e-publisher, Pothole Press (url for their website here: http://potholepress.co.uk/), which is putting together a stable containing a broad mix of fiction and non-fiction e-books. This is its first foray into science fiction

Mitchell brings a full and varied life to bear on this, his first collection of stories. He draws his protagonists with full lives too, having strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, successes and failures. That’s a lot to do in a short story which also contains plenty of world-building, plot and action, as these do. There is humour as a leaven. There is lively dialogue to push the stories along.

Most of the stories take place off world (our world, that is), space ships are in plentiful supply, as are accidents to them. Human – and alien – nature is well observed here. Aliens visit Earth with interesting results. Stranded astronauts and other life forms interact with well-imagined aliens; each has a recognisable agenda, for good and ill.

The ingredients out of which Mitchell makes his stories are often to be found in SF stories and movies. The warp drive, for instance, is an unquestioned staple. But each story takes the reader beyond the well-known; further than one might expect; on occasion two or more SF staples are combined to unusual effect. In each story something has been added. There may be a conjunction with our way of life, a parallel drawn with problems we currently have here on our own blue-green planetary home, even on occasion possible solutions – as all good SF stories should reach towards.

The author has been published several times in ‘Jupiter’ SF magazine – including the title story of this collection, which was also short-listed for the L Ron Hubbard ‘Writers of the Future’ award – and also in ‘Omega’ and ‘Apex Digest’.

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