New Treasures: Ragged Maps by Ian R. MacLeod

New Treasures: Ragged Maps by Ian R. MacLeod

Ragged Maps (Subterranean Press,
September 15, 2023). Cover by Dominic Harman

Ian R. MacLeod’s novels include The Light Ages (2003) and sequel The House of Storms (2005), but his greatest acclaim has come from his short fiction. He’s produced no less than seven short story collections since 1996, including Voyages by Starlight (1996), Frost on Glass (2015), and the World Fantasy Award nominee Breathmoss and Other Exhalations (2004).

His latest collection, Ragged Maps, was released by Subterranean Press in a hardcover limited edition last year, and I finally got the chance to curl up with it this week. In contains fifteen stories, including an original novella and the Sturgeon Award nominee “The Visitor from Taured.” In his Locus Online review Paul Di Filippo called MacLeod’s prose “Just gorgeous… elegant, complex, mysterious, empathetic, melancholy, mystical, and, somehow, quintessentially British… he’s a peer and heir to Aldiss, Peake, Ballard, Priest, and Moorcock.”

[Click the images for ragged sizes.]

Three of Ian R. MacLeod’s early collections: Voyages by Starlight (Arkham House, 1996),
Breathmoss and Other Exhalations (Golden Gryphon, June 2004), and Frost on Glass
(PS Publishing, April 2015). Covers by Nicholas Jainschigg, Bob Eggleton, and Jethro Lentle

MacLeod includes an introduction for Ragged Maps, as well as detailed notes that offer often delightful insights into each tale.

Here’s a longer excerpt from Paul’s review.

How best to convey to the uninitiated the contours and pleasures of Ian MacLeod’s fiction? I would start by saying it’s elegant, complex, mysterious, empathetic, melancholy, mystical, and, somehow, quintessentially British; full of startling ideas often verging on the surreal. Then I would say he’s a peer and heir to Aldiss, Peake, Ballard, Priest, and Moorcock…

KAT, an orbital AI tasked with curating humanity’s entire cultural legacy, is rightfully besotted with Jane Austen, among other literary treasures. But are such refinements of silicon taste enough to protect its treasures against a posthuman incursion? And will the future depicted in “Ephemera” even care?

A pendant to MacLeod’s two novels about a counterfactual timeline powered by “aether,” “Lamagica” has a distinctly louche, hothouse, Lucius Shepard vibe. In the nasty New World city of Verarica, the dissolute guide Dampier takes on the case of Londoner Clemency Abuthnot, in search of her lost brother. A big aether strike might very well await at the end of the road. But will Dampier dissolve into a neurotic bundle of flaws before then?

A distinctly Boucherian tone (“The Quest for Saint Aquin”), or even Simakian, permeates “Sin Eater”, in which a robot visiting the Vatican finds that ordeals like crucifixion are not reserved just for humans…

Ballard’s city of “Chronopolis” might have survived longer if it had a dedicated servant like “The Chronologist.” Tasked with keeping time running in its proper channels, the mage-like figure is almost undone by the manipulations of a small careless boy… Lastly, “The Fall of the House of Kepler” richly conflates Poe with a kind of Vancian space opera.

All of these variegated tales are crafted to perfection, not one step amiss in plot or treatment. But it’s really MacLeod’s sensitivity and precision and keen-sightedness, embodied in beautiful prose, that carry one along.

Read the complete review at Locus Online.

Some of the sources for the stories in Ragged Maps: Asimov’s Science Fiction,
July-August 2018 and May-June 2020, and Extrasolar (PS Publishing, August 2017).
Covers by Mycoolsites, Anna Balbusso & Elena Balbusso, and Tomislav Tikulin

Ragged Maps contains the novella “Lamagica,” the original novella “Downtime,” and thirteen shorter tales. Here’s the complete TOC.

“The Mrs Innocents” (Asimov’s Science Fiction, May-June 2020)
“The Wisdom of the Group” (Asimov’s Science Fiction, March-April 2017)
“Ephemera” (Asimov’s Science Fiction, July August 2018)
“Lamagica” (Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy 3, July 2020)
“Ouroboros” (2001: An Odyssey in Words, March 2018)
“Stuff” (New Worlds, January 2022)
“The God of Nothing” (Burning Brightly: 50 Years of Novacon, November 2021)
“Downtime” (original)
“The Roads” (Asimov’s Science Fiction, April 1997)
“The Memory Artist” (Asimov’s Science Fiction, May-June 2019)
“Sin Eater” (Made to Order: Robots and Revolution, March 2020)
“The Visitor from Taured” (Asimov’s Science Fiction, September 2016) — Sturgeon Award nominee
“The Chronologist” ( February 9, 2022)
“Selkie” (Alternate Peace, June 2019)
“The Fall of the House of Kepler” (Extrasolar, August 2017)

Our previous coverage of Ian R. Macleod includes:

Birthday Reviews: Ian R. Macleod’s “Starship Day” by Steven H Silver

Ragged Maps was published by Subterranean Press on September 15, 2023. It is 454 pages, priced at $45 for the limited edition hardcover. These is no digital edition. The cover is by Dominic Harman.

See all our recent New Treasures here.

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Steve A Oerkfitz

Love his writing. My favorite SF short story writer. I have all of his collections.

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