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Bewildering Stories

Waiting for the Machines to Fall Asleep

reviewed by Danielle L. Parker

Waiting for the Machines to Fall Asleep
Author: anthology
Publisher: Affront Publishing, 2015
Length: 328 pp.
ISBN: 9187585316; 978-9187585319

When Bewildering Stories was offered a chance to review a Swedish sci-fi anthology, I confess my first thought was, “Ole, Lena and Sven in space? Send me that book!” Along with Prairie Home Companion, I absorbed a lot of Ole and Lena — and don’t forget Sven — jokes when I lived in Minnesota.

Okay, so some folks insist Ole and Lena are Norwegian, but they’re usually smarting Swedes, reacting to an Ole in the pig barn side-splitter. Having recently discovered I own rapacious Norwegian ancestors via Irish Galway maidens — well, former maidens — I had to pick sides. Though secretly, we all love the sappy trio.

My second, more professional, take was, of course, “And what characterizes Swedish science fiction?” As a long time reader in the genre, I can talk about the differences between, say, English or American science fiction. But Swedish science fiction? Duh. Not a clue.

So, after finishing this anthology, if it’s representative of the national style, I sort of have an answer.

A fondness for present tense is one obvious characteristic. I wish I knew whether the stories were written directly in English, or written in Swedish and translated.

But I suspect the fondness for present tense is meant to convey the dystopian and serious vibe, rather than an ESL issue. The anthology, taken as a whole, tends overwhelmingly to dark. But I can’t blame the Swedes for loving “this-ends-real-badly” stories. Sort of goes with science fiction, that “I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream” thing.

So we’ve got 26 stories here of generally decent quality. I skipped some: one whose religious references I found too pretentious; a couple yeah-I-see-your-punch-line-a-mile-off. Finishing the rest was a decent percent of readable for an anthology.

“The Road” and “Jump to the Left, Jump to the Right” were simple stories that stood out by their humanistic and up-beat vibe. “Punch Card Horses” had an amusing Aesop’s Fables feel. “Getting to the End” was a surprising hard-boiled riff.

Waiting for the Machines to Fall Asleep isn’t a light-hearted read, for the most part. But take it to the beach, and while you’re chased by the evil cloud creature, getting your brain drained by androids, look up from the pages at the squealing children and sunshine and smile. “Hey... one of these days, Ole and Lena will make it to space. Next anthology, please!”

Copyright © 2015 by Danielle L. Parker

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