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The Silver Wind

by Nina Allan

A Thread of Truth

154 pages

Martin Newland is fascinated by the nature of time. Watches and clocks are for him metaphorical time machines, a secret means of coming to terms with his clouded past and voyaging forward into the future. But was his first timepiece a Smith, given to him on his fourteenth birthday, or the Longines he received as a present four years later? Was it the small brass travelling clock unearthed in a run-down house for which he is to act as estate agent? Who is the maker of these time machines? Clues abound but contradict each other: was it an ex-seaside circus performer, or a ‘miracle dwarf’ engaged in a government project to subvert the course of time into parallel realities? As Martin pursues these mysteries, is he haunted by the spirit of his dead brother, or by the death of his beloved sister? The answer to all these questions is yes.

A complication is the description a watch-maker gives to any extra feature added to a clock or watch that goes beyond the simple display of time, and The Silver Wind is a book of complications. Nina Allan has constructed a remarkable and original narrative in which five separate segments of story interlock and interweave like the perfectly honed cogs of a watch mechanism. Time, memory, love, hope and regret all complicate Martin’s quest for the truth. In the implied spaces and overlaps between these five moments in time the reader is granted a mysteriously enriching vision of the everyday world.

Contents

Time's Chariot
My Brother's Keeper
The Silver Wind
Rewind
Timelines: An Afterword

 

“…I think this is a very fine little book… Partly I simply like its orneriness. The Silver Wind is quite determinedly idiosyncratic by the standards of contemporary sf, with a cast of tricky, often distant characters and a carefully engineered refusal of coherence. In each story, the same names recur, but the relationships between them are different — the same characters turn up as relatives, friends, lovers — and while these alternate universes build a shared context, they don’t build a straightforward narrative. Rather, as Tricia Sullivan puts it in her introduction, the stories haunt one another… But I don’t want to imply that it’s only a literary puzzle; there are some fine character portraits here, and a restrained observational Englishness that reminded me of some of Ian R MacLeod’s work. It’s more a prompt for exploration than anything to be solved…”

Nial Harrison - Strange Horizons 

 

"…The Silver Wind as a whole is quite different from the sum of its parts. The first three stories were published previously, but they cannot have been read separately in the same way that they are read together, with their uncanny resonances. It would be like reading a single one of the twelve novels that make up Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time: you might enjoy the story, but without reading more of the books you wouldn’t understand Powell’s use of repetition, coincidence, and change. Allan uses these devices too, but instead of constructing a sweeping narrative in which all the pieces fit together, she presents pieces that can’t be put together at all—though their colors and shapes are designed to make you think that, just possibly, they can.

The result is a book about missed opportunities, broken connections, and loss. The music of Allan’s time is decidedly melancholy…

…”Rewind” is the first story in which a character named Miranda takes center stage, and she evokes sympathy as Martin did in the first story. The reanimated watch mirrors Miranda herself, whose monotonous and lonely life has just been transformed by her love affair with Martin. Partly because Miranda is new and not a repetition, this symbolism succeeds on both intellectual and emotional levels. It’s a moment of sheer optimism which seems, in the context of the book, particularly brave…”

Sofia Samitar - Strange Horizons 

Nina Allan’s stories have appeared regularly in the magazines Black Static and Interzone, and have featured in the anthologies Catastrophia, Subtle Edens, Strange Tales from Tartarus, Best Horror of the Year #2 and Year’s Best SF #28. A first collection of her fiction, A Thread of Truth, was published by Eibonvale Press in 2007. Twice shortlisted for the BFS and BSFA Award, Nina’s next book, Stardust, will be available from PS Publishing in autumn 2012. As soon as she finishes work on her current crop of short story commissions, Nina will finally settle down to write a proper novel. An exile from London, she lives and works in Hastings, East Sussex.

The Silver Wind is available in the following formats:

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