by Edward Bryant
Reviewed by Galen Strickland
Posted May 31, 2019
Another story collection by Edward Bryant from ReAnimus Press. Neon Twilight consists of two short stories and one novelette, all of which could be considered space opera, a sub-genre quite unlike most of Bryant's other work. The first one is the oldest, 1970's "Waiting in Crouched Halls," which Bryant describes as being peripheral to Cinnabar, the only one not included in that 1976 collection. The only indication of that is the Terminex computer, which directs the actions of a trio of pilots, although details of their battles are vague, perhaps it's just a simulation. No mention of the city itself. Everything is from the viewpoint of Amanda, strapped into a ship and fed drugs to help her survive the ordeal, which comes across like a psychedelic mind-trip. Stylistically at least, it is the best story here.
The novelette is 1984's "Pilots of the Twilight," which appeared in the Fred Saberhagen edited anthology Berserker Base. I had read some of Saberhagen's stories in that 'verse in the late '60s/early 70s. Berserkers are machine intelligences left over from a previous war, now intent on wiping out humanity. At the time of the original Battlestar Galactica I was thinking Glen Larson might have read some of them too. "Pilots" struck me as a story unsure of what it was meant to be. More time is spent on the personalities of human pilots Morgan Kai-Anila, a rich high-born woman who forsakes her family's fortunes to become a celebrated combat pilot, and the slightly younger Holt Calder, also a very good pilot but less experienced. His back-story takes up quite a bit of time, his early life after his parents either disappeared or died, when the other villagers set him out in the wilderness to live or die on his own. He was taken in by a group of indigenous hunter-gatherers, the 'Reen, who later take him back to the village, only for the villagers to abandon him again. He then lives with the natives until he is ten, then returned to the village when they declare he is unable to join into their "Calling" rituals. But those rituals prove to be the answer later when Berserkers enter the system.
"Neon" is original to this collection, and a sequel to "Pilots." The main character, Neona-Gae Anila, is the granddaughter of Holt and Morgan. The 'Reen had integrated into human society, rewarded for their help against the Berserkers, whereas before they had been hunted as predatory animals. Unfortunately, the story is much too short, ending just when it's getting interesting. As far as I've been able to determine Bryant never continued Neona's story, even though he ended his introduction saying it was likely he would. One thing I didn't mention about "Pilots" is that both Holt and Morgan's ships were controlled by AIs. Holt called his ship Bob, and Neona had heard stories about Bob since she was a little girl. Now Bob comes to her rescue when it appears someone is targeting her. The story ends abruptly with them leaving the planet. If I ever track down another story featuring her I'll add comments about it here.
I can't really recommend the middle story, other than how it ties into the third. Overall I'm rating this collection just three stars, but I'm still a Bryant fan. I'll continue reading the other collections I have, and search for other stories, hopefully finding another about Neon.
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