Hertzsprung-Russell rating: O106.5+

Available in: More Tales Of Pirx The Pilot

In Stanislaw Lem’s native Poland, the letter ‘w’ is often represented by the letter ‘v’. In tribute, I will follow the same rule for my review of this story. Ahem. This story is wery, wery boring. I would rather have a wiolent wasectomy with a scalpel soaked in winegar and then get kicked and wigourously and wiciously in the testicles by Darth Wader than read it again.


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Hertzsprung-Russell rating: A102

Available in: Fire From The Wine Dark Sea

Man, this is a weird one. It’s about a cult of aliens who ride terrestrial roller-coasters to bring about the arrival of their messiah. That’s right; their messiah demands they ride roller coasters to please Him (Her? It?). I’m an atheist, but if I had to choose a belief system, I’d go for the one where I got to spend every Sunday at an amusement park riding a roller coaster. Their communion wafers are probably funnel cake. And their St. Peter is probably a fortysomething ex-con who’s not supposed to let you in if you don’t meet a minimum height requirement, but usually just says fuck it and looks the other way because he’s making eight bucks an hour. Either way, every earthly religion sucks.

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: G102.5

Available in: The Mammoth Book Of Alternate Histories

The trick to writing good AltHist is making the world-that-never-was relatable to the reader without getting bogged down by too many scholarly details. Cadigan succeeds with this dystopic tale of 1960’s radicalism that sees the war in Viet Nam won, Kennedy alive and things still in the toilet. This story has a Watchmen-esque feel to it that will unnerve anyone with an ounce of left-leaning blood in their veins.