Gareth E. Rees is probably known foremost as a fiction writer, with this book including several previously published short stories spanning a decade, but goes by other descriptors too. ‘Psychogeographer’ is one, and if that (sometimes bastardised) term doesn’t really suit Terminal Zones, at any rate it’s got plenty of geography, and psychosis.
Where these 10 enveloping yarns in Terminal Zones are given a stated location, they’re in southern England (Rees himself lives in Hastings), a region that on this evidence triggers disordered and delusional thinking in its population. One narrator moves to a new neighbourhood and is driven round the bend by its waste collection policy; a speculatively Rees-like writer torpedos his marriage by developing a romantic attraction to an electricity pylon.
The other common theme in Terminal Zones, probably more significant than its Englishness, is the imminent destruction (to be) wreaked by climate change. Many of these stories take place two decades or so in the future, amidst an ecosystem which has all but collapsed. The collection’s opening chapter, in which the crew of a scientific icebreaker ship are infected by mind-altering bacteria, seems to channel Poe and Moby Dick; elsewhere, gallows humour abounds as coastal erosion sends an unwanted houseguest into the briny depths.
Terminal Zones’ closer The Slime Factory, having outlined an intensely dystopian 2040s, punctures it with a punchline whose slow manoeuvring into view may leave you groaning – though all in the service of a hugely entertaining read.
Terminal Zones, Gareth E. Rees (Influx)
Price: £9.99. Info: here
words NOEL GARDNER