Review: Cold Comfort and Other Tales by David McDonald

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Published: 2014 by Clan Destine Fictions
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi)
Genres: Science fiction
Source: Review copy provided by author
Disclaimer: Review copy provided by author in exchange for an honest review.

Cold Comfort and Other Tales is a collection of science fiction short stories, two of which are reprints and one of which is original.

The titular tale follows Vanja, a travelling trader who seeks a reclusive settlement and hidden knowledge. Worldbuilding is a strength of this collection and is showcased nicely in this story. Heated domes protect settlements that are not necessarily safer than the snowy wilderness. Adventuresome nature aside, Vanja shows herself to be a relatively sensible character when it comes to managing the risks. The story had a nice pace to it, though the ending left me somewhat unsatisfied. Its revelation of the bigger picture gave the impression this was simply the beginning of a longer tale.

In Through Wind and Weather, Nick and his semi-sentient spaceship battle the worst solar storm on record to make a vital delivery to a planet of settlers. A very short but well-executed story. I read it without being aware of the context of this story’s original publication and so the twist at the end came as a surprise.

Our Land Abounds, the original tale in the collection, is another where the worldbuilding really comes to the fore. It is a near future tale where most of the world is wracked by food shortages and the Republic of Australasia has closed off its borders in an effort to protect its plentiful food supply. Citizens who claim this supply should be shared with the rest of the world mysteriously disappear and illegal immigrants are hanged on discovery. I’d be curious to find out how the cultural references translate for international readers, but Australians will find it chillingly plausible in the current political climate.  I found the plot a little pedestrian, being overshadowed by the worldbuilding. However, that was rather the point and it asked some hard questions about empathy and the current state of society.

Cold Comfort and Other Tales is a short collection that will suck you in and spit you out again before you know it. Perfect for commutes or dipping into when you don’t have a lot of time.


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