A disclosure before I begin: Stuart Barton and I are friends from way back, so there’s always the chance of bias creeping into my reviews of his fiction, but in truth, he’s had a history of creative ideas ever since I first knew him, and I find his fiction, well, different from much of what’s out there, each story a new facet of his mind revealed, like any good writer’s, with his own voice and style, and always something unexpected.
A Hell of Heaven starts on the Earth of the future, a ultra-congested world of a thousand billion people where everything is regulated by law.
Everything. No exceptions, no uncertainty. On this world, everything sane is scheduled to precise timekeeping. And everything sane lives inside the massive buildings the teeming masses have constructed to house themselves in their world city, even under the waves.
The protagonist, Willem 3047-I7G4-W12Z Chen Martinez, working on a Doctor of Mechanical Maintenance degree, discovers the world outside the buildings, a chaotic, frightening world of things and creatures literally outside the law…outside of sanity and beyond regulation.
He is chosen to go on a ‘routine mission’ on an orbital vehicle, only to find out the truth of what happens on such missions, and the strange beings he meets, Neil and Valentina, seemingly like himself physically…but unregulated and quite mad by his world’s standards.
He adapts better than expected, though, and makes a surprising choice once things settle in.
I liked this tale, though I would have liked to have seen more of the spacefarers than was shown. On the eldritch space-octopus from Rl’yeh scale of one to five, this one gets five tentacles from my Troythuluness.
See more from S. A. Barton on his blog at http:// sabarton.blog.com
On Twitter at http:// twitter.com/ tao23
And on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/S-A-Barton/312607662122218