Backwash of the Milky Way by O’Neil De Noux (2012)

BackwashofMilkyWayCover blurb

Eleven Science Fiction adventure stories, throwbacks to the pulp days of off-world exploration and colonization on a dazzling, mysterious, dangerous planet. Four never-before published stories are included with stories that appeared in top publications – Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Tomorrow Speculative Fiction Magazine, Gorezone Magazine, Oceans of the Mind Magazine, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination Magazine, Adventure Anthology and Cricket Children’s Magazine.

Along the backwash of the Milky Way Galaxy lies a sun-kissed planet Earthlings call Octavion, a world of sparkling blue oceans, emerald green forests, bright deserts and blue-green lakes. The size of Earth, with a similar star for its sun, Octavion is moonless with an oxygen-rich atmosphere, a planet of colors so vivid they amaze humans. During the day, the Octavion sun raises the temperature into the nineties Fahrenheit. With a nearly non-existent polar tilt, the seasons change so little, they are barely recognized. At night, billowy clouds turn magenta then a deep reddish purple before sinking into a dark indigo before blackness. The stars seem brighter in the moonless sky than on Earth.

The first humans marvel at the beauty of the planet and name its natural wonders for their vivid colors – Cerulean Sea, Cobalt Sea, Sapphire Sea and rivers called Majestic Blue and Royal Blue. The leaves of Magenta Forest are magenta as the bright leaves of the Spearmint Forest reflect that hue. The trees of the Indigo Forest are covered with pale, blue leaves. The stone beneath Lake Violet give (sic) its water a purplish cast, limestone of Emerald Lake is green, reflected in his clear water. There is (sic) a Copper Plateau and a Terra Cotta Plateau, multi-colored Calico Hills and Cinnamon Hill, the orange-brown color of cinnamon.

Riding the Right of Habitation Act, which gives humans the right to colonize any inhabitable world, people flock to the beautiful planet, only to quickly discover its secret. Octavion is populated by creatures very much like the beasts Earthlings call dinosaurs. Scientist (sic) cannot explain this phenomenon. Humans come with their computers and other machines and the inevitable clash of worlds begins, native species edged aside by Earthlings and their farms and ranches, their cows and chickens and horses, cats and dogs. After thirty years, the Indigenous Creature Act is passed to protect native species, giving them the right of way in most instances.

Such is the setting. I hope you enjoy these Science Fiction Adventure Stories.

My thoughts

Backwash of the Milky Way is a collection of 11 intentionally old-fashioned science fiction stories from author O’Neil De Noux. Several stories were published in various magazines and anthologies over the years, although a few are original to the collection. De Noux isn’t concerned about scientific accuracy — for example, we never learn why the alien planet that serves as the setting is populated with dinosaurs. Instead, the author seeks to recreate the pulp aesthetic from science fiction’s early days. Sometimes he succeeds, sometimes he fails.

“The Silence of the Sea” kicks off the collection and serves as an introduction to the setting. Humanity has spread across the galaxy, although the technology the characters use seems little different from our own. The planet Octavion is a newly colonized world notable not only for the presence of dinosaurs but the watercolor hues of its plants and geographic features. The opening story is about a frontiersman who is determined to map Octavion’s geography, no matter what those pointy-headed scientists have to say about his presence there:

“Reminds me of the environmental scientists still trying to block human colonization of planets because we tend to destroy things. Too bad for them we have the Right of Habitation Act. Humans have the right to colonize any inhabitable planet. Spread our seed to the farthest reaches of the galaxy.”

The second story, “Tyrannous and Strong,” also concerns a man out to civilize the planet’s wilderness, this time by single-handedly killing a T. rex that has wandered onto an island the protagonist has claimed as his own. This seeming pro-colonial, anti-environmental attitude dissipates in later stories, which focus on characters seeking to preserve Octovain’s wildlife, such as a young girl’s journey to protect unicorns in “Happy Little Things” and a family’s hunt for an invasive species in “Predator of the Spearmint Forest.”

Other stories concern a settler seeking to survive a miles-wide fungal blob that eats everything in its path, a father trying to get his young son safely to shore after they are stranded on a volcanic island, and a man who is miniaturized so he can hunt a voracious ant. The stories that work best are the straight-up adventure tales, being uncomplicated and occasionally thrilling. I particularly liked “Tyrannous and Strong” and “A Frightful Fiend,” the aforementioned man vs. ant story. “Predator of the Spearmint Forest” is also a good introduction to an environmental problem that most people don’t think about, if they know about it at all. Most of the other stories are okay at best, lacking any characters or plots that would make them memorable. The only one that left a bad taste in my mouth was “A Hot and Copper Sky,” in which a woman is raped repeatedly before getting revenge on her abductors. Aside from the subject matter feeling out of place in this anthology, the rape victim’s nude body is described in graphic, ogling detail by the male author. It may be his kink but it isn’t mine.

The dinosaurs of the setting are mostly just monsters to menace the heroes, so don’t enter into the anthology expecting much else from its terrible reptiles. But if you are looking for a few evenings worth of mostly brainless entertainment, you could do worse.

Stories

  • The Silence of the Sea
  • Tyrannous and Strong
  • A Hot and Copper Sky
  • Slimy Things Did Crawl With Legs Upon the Slimy Sea
  • It Rumbled
  • Happy Living Things
  • Upon a Painted Ocean
  • Things Both Great and Small
  • Were Yellow as Gold
  • Predator of the Spearmint Forest
  • A Frightful Fiend

Trivia

  • Most of the story titles are lifted from the poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

  • De Noux has written numerous novels and short stories in a variety of genres. His website is oneildenoux.com.

Reviews

  • None

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s