Garden of Eden by Allen Taylor (ed.)

Garden of Eden by Allen Taylor (ed.)Applying only the rule that stories must feature at least one significant reference – however altered – to the Christian myth of the Garden of Eden, Taylor has assembled a collection of works that span genre and style.

Gathering ten flash fictions, five short stories, one poem, and one essay, this anthology contains works by Anne Carly Abad, Scathe meic Beorh, Jason Bougger, Shelley Chappell, J.D. deHart, Guy and Tonya De Marco, John Grey, Gary Hewitt, AmyBeth Inverness, Adam Mac, Schevus Osborne, James J. Stevenson, William Teegarden, Erin Vataris, and John Vicary.

To answer the obvious question first, while some of the contributors might be Christian, this is not a Christian book; nor is it an attack on Christianity. The works, some more than others, do raise issues of morality and sin, but they are neither thinly veiled allegory nor brutal parody.

Unsurprisingly for a collection of stories on the theme of creation, a common genre is science-fiction. However, the hardness of the sci-fi varies: from the humanism of a robot possessed by amnesia and aesthetic sense to a disgruntled programmer carrying out code attacks on a system.

Where the works do take the more traditional approach of a physical Garden of Eden created by mystical means, they are distinguished by a more unusual point of view: intelligent cockroaches tell legends of their attempt to stop the serpent; gnomes reveal how their greatest failure relegated them from honoured protector of the Tree to fairy-tale delver.

The tone of the works is similarly varied: in some, creation and the rules around it are light-hearted, almost comic; in others, it is a serious, even dystopian, act.

Although the works themselves are a good mix of perspectives and approaches, the overall structure is less balanced. The anthology is divided it into four sections: flash fiction, poetry, short stories, and essays; each identified by a Greek letter. On the face of it, this is a reasonable division, and could provide the reader with additional perspectives by considering the impact of the labels and their ordering on each work.

However, as can be seen by the relative numbers above, both poetry and essays are singular. Indeed, as is admitted in Taylor’s introduction, the essay is actually a short fictional monologue that has been placed in the essays section because its structure matches how an essay written by the protagonist might sound. This openly documented subversion of Taylor’s own structure removes the justification for maintaining it, weakening – if not removing – any resonance created by the structure.

Fortunately, this choice of initial concept over actual content merely reduces the anthology to the level of an un-ordered collection rather than detracting from the individual works.

Overall I enjoyed this anthology. I recommend it to readers who enjoy riffs of speculative fiction from a common seed.

I won a copy of this anthology, without obligation to review. In the interests of full disclosure, Schevus Osborne appears in an anthology I published.


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