Friday, August 3, 2012

North by 2000+ - by H. A. Hargreaves - Mid-Seventies Canadian Science Fiction

4 of 5 Stars  (Review copy)

When North by 2000: A Collection of Canadian Science Fiction was first published way back in 1975, it was the very first collection of short stories clearly marketed as Canadian Science Fiction.  North by 2000+ is a reissue of the original book with a few more SF stories written by Hargreaves in the years following it's publication.

The collection starts off strong with Dead To the World.  For me the story has a Twilight Zone feel to it.  Due to a computer glitch, the protagonist, Joe Schultz, is now...dead to the world.  In the writer's future, where you need an ID card for every aspect of your life, from building security, to purchasing basic necessities, being dead can be quite a problem for someone who's still alive.  Well written and quite satisfying, despite references to punch cards, which went the way of dinosaurs in the early days of the computer revolution.

Many of the stories in this collection take place in a world where at least a portion of the US and Canada are now known as Americanada.  In addition to the punch card reference, another item in Hargreaves' society of the future was the Autoteria.  Sort of an automatic cafeteria.  Here in the states, particularly where my Mom took me as a kid, they were known as Automats.  We used to go to Horn and Hardarts in Center City Philadelphia, and as an 8 year old, I loved it.  The fresh entrees, deserts, side items and such were all behind little windows.  You'd enter whatever the cost of the item was in a coin slot and it would unlock the window for that item.  In the stories of North by 2000+ you would use your AP (All Purpose) card.

There's also the story of Cainn, about a juvenile delinquent and the man who serves time with him as a one on one, personal corrections officer, who's job it is to rehabilitate the prisoner.  Interesting concept.

Another story I really liked was, More Things In Heaven and Earth, which you might recognize from Shakespeare's Hamlet.  Alan Hamilton, is a Senior Lecturer at University Television Central, who teaches a very popular course on the Bard's work while a team of dedicated actors called The Unit act out scenes, all televised to classrooms around the country.  Of course, there are complications, including a crew from the magazine Look at Life, coming to do a story on the process.  Get it?  LOOK at LIFE.  If you were around in the 70's, I'm sure you got the references.

All in all, I never did get a feeling for the "Canadian Science Fiction" angle.  For the most part the stories ran from average to great Science Fiction and that's good enough for me.  I'm glad the stories were left as written and not updated for a new audience.  I enjoyed the time capsule feeling of seeing what a mid-seventies writer saw for the time we live in now.

North by 2000+ from 5 Rivers Publishing was published in March of 2012 is available in paperback and a variety of ebook formats.

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