Stant Litore’s third short story in the ‘Ansible’ series is splendid. It’s both a synthesis of the previous two stories, and a development of their themes.
The backdrop of these stories is a future where interstellar space travel is now possible through a telepathic process, whereby the mind of a traveller is cast to its far flung destination where it must find a native host body, which it then inhabits to resume its mission. The organisation responsible for these missions is called “Star-mind.”
In the first story, the travellers encounter a terrible, eldritch threat; creatures that possess the mind, plunging it into an eternity of nightmares, and then feed off the fear of the nightmares, and eventually the mind itself.
The second story diverts to a planet that is an immense desert of salt, and we discover what happens when the mind travellers occupy alien creatures very physiologically different from their human form. It’s a study of loneliness and spiritual yearning in the face of alienation and a terrifying immensity.
This instalment introduces us to another exotic, weird and wonderful planet and creatures, this time based on a rain-forest habitat. The bodies the travellers inhabit this time are physiologically wonderful plant creatures. But they are not the only travellers. Cue the return of the terrifying mind parasites of the first story.
The best science fiction, fantasy and genre stories have always been infused with two magic and essential ingredients, imagination and wonder. Litore’s Ansible stories have them in spades. He combines the wonder and awe of a vast cosmos with fascinating detail on the future of our world, and alien worlds, cultures and species. The monsters are also a vivid creation, utterly repellent and shudder inducing; a feeling of the spiders creep across the flesh, the cold slime of slugs and jellyfish, with the piercing horror of being able to invade and eat your mind.
There is a passage in the story that speaks to one of the series main themes, about the sometimes accidently rapacious and invasive characteristics of transplants. The transplant may be cellular or biological, or cultural and sociological. The intention may be to heal and discover, but the end result may be the consumption and destruction of the host, taking only what is needed in the process of transformation.
Litore writes uncanny and wonderful stories. His writing has the music of poetry, and the pace and thrills of a white knuckle horror story. Highly recommended.