This review is available here by kind courtesy of the author. Originally published in "Foundation 20" (10 - 1980). Copyright Brian Stableford, 1980 - 1999.THE SEED OF EVIL by Barrington J. Bayley, Allison & Busby 1979, 175pp. £5.95. ISBN 0-85031-313-9.
Allison & Busby are now well-advanced with their programme of bringing out the entire works of Barrington J. Bayley - a project which should earn them the undying gratitude of any true science fiction fan. This is the second collection of Bayley's short stories, and has been published along with two novels - Empire of Two Worlds and Annihilation Factor. These novels are not among his best, and nor are most of the stories in this collection, but even Bayley's lesser works are full of ideas and highly readable.
The Knights of the Limits will remain the archetypical Bayley collection at least until the author can find a new market for his idiosyncratic fantasies and is thus encouraged to produce some new work. Although this collection has four stories which have not previously seen the light of day, and one or two which first appeared in rather obscure places, it is basically a compandium of early works. The stories are entirely typical of Bayley's method, showing his inventive flair to good advantage, they lack something of the dramatic panache which made the earlier collection a classic.
The collection opens with "Sporting with the Chid", a marvellously gruesome story about the amusements of an alien race who are expert biological engineers, and closes with the equally melodramatic title story, which is a kind of a sciencefictional version of Melmoth the Wanderer. Few of the stories in between are as substantial, though God is assassinated in "The God Gun" and the force animating Earthly evolution is switched off in "The Infinite Searchlight". Several of the stories which Bayley sold to Ted Carnell in the guise of P. F. Woods are here, including the marvellous story of warped space inside the Earth, "The Radius Riders", and it is slightly disappointing to find that the new stories are really no better than these. However, there is one exceptionally fine story - the star of the collection - whose content belies its brevity. This is "Man in Transit", the autobiography of a man born of stateless parents aboard an aeroplane, who must spend his entire life being constantly deported from one country to another and back again. He dedicates his life to the development of a philosophy and a theology which suit his existential predicament - a simple but elegant piece of metaphorical reasoning.
A second-rate Bayley collection has as much to offer as most collections in this day and age.
- Brian Stableford, 1980